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Global financial regulators said on Thursday they are in talks with governments to allow key staff at financial firms to work on site during the coronavirus epidemic to keep markets open.

The Financial Stability Board (FSB) also said an end-of-2021 deadline for stopping the use of Libor benchmarks in financial contracts remained a priority. There has been speculation that the deadline might be put back in response to COVID-19.

Many countries have introduced lockdowns that curb non-essential travel and force people to work from home in a bid to curb the spread of the virus.

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The FSB co-ordinates financial rules for the Group of 20 economies and on March 30 its members reviewed action to keep markets working and maintain the flow of credit to households and businesses.

A key issue discussed was “the critical nature of many financial services and the importance of ensuring their operation throughout the pandemic,” the FSB said in a statement.

“FSB members are actively engaging with national and local authorities to ensure that these essential personnel are permitted to work on site.”

Some countries, including the United States and Britain, list financial workers as key staff who can still travel to their place of work rather than having to work from home.

The FSB wants to make sure that if lockdowns become more stringent, key financial workers or any third-party providers they use are not hampered in delivering core services.

However, Britain’s markets watchdog has begun cracking down on banks designating too many staff as key workers as they are then entitled not only to travel, but also to send their children to school.

The watchdog said the crisis called for a reprioritization of its regulatory work.

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FSB members in the United States, Britain and elsewhere want banks to end the use of Libor (the London Interbank Offered Rate) and its variants in financial contracts worth about US$400-trillion globally.

Banks were fined about US$9-billion for trying to rig Libor and markets have been told to switch to rates compiled by central banks such as the Federal Reserve and the Bank of England.

“The transition from Libor remains a priority as firms cannot rely on Libor being produced after end-2021,” the FSB said. “Benchmark transition will help to strengthen the global financial system.”

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