BOJ Checks on Virus Readiness as Top Bank Reports First Case

The rapid spread of the coronavirus has prompted the Bank of Japan to ask major banks about their readiness for a worsening of the outbreak, people with knowledge of the matter said.

Initial findings from the talks indicate that large financial institutions are well placed to deal with the situation, the people said, asking not to be identified. The lenders have contingency plans involving different office locations that will prevent disruptions to key tasks such as market-related operations, they said.

Risks to the banking system came into focus on Thursday, when Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc. became the first major bank to report aninfection in the country.

Japan’s biggest banks have been allowing employees to work from home or on staggered shifts to avoid crowded trains that could increase the possibility of infection. Some non-financial firms have gone a step further, with advertising giant Dentsu Group Inc. ordering staff to work from home after a workertested positive for the virus.

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MUFG said an employee at a branch in Aichi prefecture, central Japan, is hospitalized in a stable condition after being found to have the coronavirus this week. The Tokyo-based lender said it has disinfected the outlet and decided to keep it open after consulting with health authorities.

Concerns about the disease are also intensifying in Tokyo’s financial district after developer Mitsubishi Estate Co. said Wednesday that an infected person had visited its Shin-Marunouchi Building.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has called for major sporting and cultural events to be called off, postponed or scaled down over the next two weeks to prevent the spread of the virus. Japan has 186 confirmed cases so far.

Banks including Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp. are urging staff to take holidays as well as work from home. MUFG, Japan’s biggest lender, is limiting large external meetings and asking workers to avoid meals with clients.

Brokerages such as Daiwa Securities Group Inc. havecanceled seminars for customers. Nomura Holdings Inc., the nation’s largest securities firm, isrestricting non-essential travel to countries stricken by the coronavirus.

— With assistance by Yuki Hagiwara, Taiga Uranaka, Yuko Takeo, and Sumio Ito

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