MONTREAL -- Desjardins Group says the COVID-19 pandemic weighed on its results last quarter, as surplus earnings before member dividends dropped 29 per cent year over year.

The Quebec-based financial institution says the decrease in surplus earnings to $285 million in the quarter ended March 31, down from $401 million a year earlier, stemmed from the "negative financial consequences" of the virus.

Desjardins says the fallout increased the provision for credit losses as the economic outlook deteriorated and travel restrictions drove up Desjardins' costs in segments including credit, travel insurance and credit balance insurance.

The credit union says it has received more than 616,000 requests for relief measures since March 16. The bulk of these concerned auto insurance, while the rest ranged from payment deferrals on credit cards to terms of loans, lines of credit and mortgages.

Desjardins says earnings at its personal and business sector — which furnishes the bulk of the organization's income — plunged 37.5 per cent to $213 million, but that network operations growth and a "solid performance" from the property and casualty insurance division helped mitigate the decline.

It says its first-quarter operating income rose more 8.2 per cent year over year to $4.67 billion.