March 17, 2020 / 1:58 PM / 14 days ago

UPDATE 3-Canada's "Big Six" banks to limit hours, close branches in coronavirus fight

(Adds statement from Canadian banks)

March 17 (Reuters) - Canada's six largest banks will temporarily limit operating hours and close some branches as part of measures to support social distancing and curb the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, the Canadian Bankers Association said on Tuesday.

Many services will continue to be available through automated banking machines, mobile apps, websites and telephone banking, the industry group said here on Tuesday.

Bank of Montreal will close 134 branches, representing 15% of its total in Canada, over the coming days, a spokesman said on Tuesday.

Late on Monday, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce said that, beginning Wednesday, it will close about 206 banking centers that do not offer over-the-counter cash and banking services.

Both banks will also adjust the operating hours of their branches, they said.

CIBC said many employees in non-client facing roles were working from home starting this week, and the bank is donating C$100,000 to the World Health Organization and C$650,000 to Canadian charities.

The banks will maintain critical services for customers and special care will be given to branches in rural communities, the CBA said.

The move comes on a day when Ontario, Canada's most populous province, banned gatherings of more than 50 people and ordered the closure of bars and restaurants in a bid to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

In a separate statement on Tuesday, the major lenders said they would provide financial relief to Canadians hurt by the economic consequences of COVID-19 and underlined their commitment to work with personal and small business banking customers on a case-by-case basis.

Financial help will include up to a six-month payment deferral for mortgages and opportunity for relief on other credit products to help customers manage through challenges such as pay or childcare disruptions due to school closures over coronavirus concerns.

As of Monday, the death toll in Canada had risen to four and the number of infected jumped to 407 from 341. (Reporting by Noor Zainab Hussain and Bharath Manjesh in Bengaluru, Nichola Saminather in Toronto; Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips, Bernadette Baum and Bernard Orr)

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