The country's banks have been working together on a co-ordinated response plan to best ensure the continuity of banking and payment services across the country in the face of the escalating Covid-19 situation.

Brian Hayes, chief executive of Banking and Payments Federation Ireland, said this will help to ensure that practical supports and measures are in place across the financial system so as individuals and businesses most affected by Covid-19 can be supported. 

Mr Hayes said that several cross-sector co-ordination groups, chaired by BPFI, have been established.

They are working on a daily basis to ensure contingency plans and measures are in place given the pace and scale of the challenge. 

He said the banks' chief operating officers and payments teams across the sector are working together on all aspects of core payment services and continuity planning.  

"This work aims to mitigate possible disruption to payment services including electronic payments such as credit transfers and direct debits, cash, cheques and card payments," he said. 

"Significant progress has been made and a robust response plan has been put in place", he added.

Mr Hayes also said that senior representatives from the banks are regularly meeting to focus on the changing economic impact on personal customers and businesses generally and the priority issues that are arising. 

"Banks have moved rapidly this week to ensure a wide range of credit, cash flow and supply chain supports are offered to businesses who are trying to manage the pressures arising from Covid-19," he said.

He added that different measures and arrangements for personal customers facing financial challenges have also been made available.

BPFI also advised bank customers experiencing difficulties to contact their bank.

"The industry is here to help the entire country to get through this unprecedented situation, that's why customer bank engagement is so crucial," Brian Hayes said.

A number of banks have already said they will offer mortgage and loan repayment deferrals to personal customers, to help them deal with financial strain caused by the Covid-19 outbreak.

Bank of Ireland said it has a range of supports, including payment breaks or flexible arrangements on mortgages or loans for up to three months that it will discuss with personal customers directly.

Similarly Ulster Bank said personal customers in financial difficulty as a result of the virus may be able to defer their mortgage and loan repayments for up to three months.

AIB said impacted mortgage customers can avail of an interest only or moratoria period of up to six months.

It also said it allows interest-only repayments in certain circumstances and credit options and supports depending on the specific needs of the customer. 

Meanwhile, Permanent TSB said it already offers support to customers in financial difficulty, including appropriate treatment options based on an individual's circumstances.