Bank executives in Mexico quarantined after convention alert

By Abraham Gonzalez and Anthony Esposito

MEXICO CITY, Mar 18 (Reuters) – Many of Mexico’s top banking and financial executives were quarantined this week or forced to work from home, after they attended a busy convention days ago at least one participant tested positive for coronavirus.

In contrast to much of Latin America, the Mexican government took a non-restrictive approach to the virus, allowing massive events to take place, including the banking meeting in Acapulco and a music festival in Mexico City.

But on Sunday, a senior official at the central bank tested positive after participating in the convention, which was also attended by the president, the secretary of the treasury and hundreds of senior bankers.

“All of us participating in the convention, for everyone’s safety, are in quarantine operating outside the bank. So far, none of our managers have been affected by the virus,” said a spokesperson for Citibanamex, a subsidiary of US bank Citigroup.

The Association of Banks of Mexico (ABM) defended its decision to carry out the convention on Thursday, saying that measures had been taken to safeguard the safety of the participants.

In fact, conference organizers placed tables stocked with hand sanitizers along the hallways of the luxurious hotel on the Pacific coast, and put up signs detailing the sanitary measures.

But despite calls for social distancing, the convention was a potential focus of transmission, as handshakes, hugs and kisses on the cheek were frequent.

After Banco de México’s statement that one of its executives tested positive for the virus, ABM and a significant number of banks instructed those who attended the convention to work remotely for 15 days.

The HSBC bank said through electronic messages that only a small group of the institution attended the convention, but that its executives are also working from home, along with other people from the entity.

On the other hand, although they did not refer to the convention, Santander México and Banorte said that part of their corporate office staff works from home and that they will implement similar measures in other facilities.

The central bank did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the measures taken after it became known that an official had been infected.

As of Wednesday night, the total number of cases in Mexico stood at 118 and only one person had died from the disease, which globally has infected almost 240,000 and killed almost 10,000.

(Report by Abraham González and Anthony Esposito.)