As the impact of the coronavirus outbreak continues to intensify across the United States, reducing foot traffic to retail outlets, banks have initiated a raft of branch closures in various cities.

Large banks have begun to cut back on their retail operations in the US, in order to reduce the spread of the coronavirus while keeping critical banking services like accessing deposits available to customers.

Citigroup is latest bank to announce widespread branch closures, temporarily shuttering up to 15% of its U.S. branches amid the coronavirus outbreak.

“As our clients and communities increasingly self-isolate, we have noticed shifts in foot traffic and market dynamics – so to best meet our changing customer needs we have begun to temporarily close branches,” spokesman Drew Benson said.

Branches close as virus affects access

The company, which has around 700 branches in the country, will begin the closures at the end of this week.

Citigroup, the third largest U.S. lender, said it would also temporarily reduce branch hours and redeploy staff to ensure access to essential services.

Last week, JPMorgan Chase, the largest U.S. bank, said it would temporarily shut about 20% of its branch network leaving it with roughly 4,000 locations.

Bank of America has also announced a reduction of operating hours at its branches.

“Critical infrastructure workers”

While there are government-mandated shutdowns in effect across the US, banks—considered an essential industry by the federal government—have remained open.

Most bank branches, call centres and trading floors have stayed open even as many firms sent their employees home.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has backed the Department of Homeland Security’s designation of the financial services workforce as critical infrastructure workers.

The directive said employees who provide consumer access to banking and lending services should maintain their normal schedules amid state and local shutdown orders.