Can Cash Spread Coronavirus? 5 Facts We Know

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Can Cash Spread Coronavirus? 5 Facts We Know

digital , 12-03-2020

What started as reported incidents of pneumonia late 2019 in Wuhan province, China, is creeping up on the world as we wake up to the news of newly affected countries, cases and deaths. The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is evolving rapidly, along with too many daily updates to keep up with. The challenge is, with too many voices, you get noise. Underneath all the layers of public angst and medical jargon – SARS-CoV-2, genome, RNA and the like – the only truth that makes sense is that people are afraid and dread infection.  When you peel back the layers, you realise there are cold facts and emerging truths about the role of banknotes and coins in carrying the “crown-shaped” virus. So, what do we know?

Fact 1:

The disease can spread from person to person through small droplets from the nose or mouth which are spread when a person with COVID-19 coughs or exhales. These droplets land on objects and surfaces around the person. Other people then catch COVID-19 by touching these objects or surfaces, then touching their own eyes, nose or mouth….
Source: WHO, Q&A on coronavirus disease, Updated March 9, 2020

Fact 2:

According to the Chinese Central Government, cash received by financial institutions must be sterilised before being released to customers.
Source: Chinese Central Government Web Portal, February 15, 2020

Fact 3:

According to a spokesperson of the US Federal Reserve (Central Bank), it has begun quarantining physical dollars that it repatriates from Asia before recirculating them in the U.S. financial system as a precautionary measure against spreading the virus.
Source: Reuters, March 6, 2020

Fact 4:

Not all banknotes and coins are printed and minted by the issuing countries. For instance, Ghana’s currency, the Ghana Cedi, is printed by De La Rue, a British firm. The stock is transported to Ghana and circulated throughout the entire nation using licensed financial institutions. Although the Ghana Cedi does not enjoy global legal tender status like the US Dollar, it is accepted in transactions over her borders. As a result, it is common to find nationals of Togo, Côte d’Ivoire and Burkina Faso, even Nigeria keep and transact with the Ghana Cedi.

Fact 5:

In a reported reply to the UK Telegraph newspaper on whether banknotes could be spreading coronavirus, a WHO spokesperson stated: “Yes it’s possible and it’s a good question. We know that money changes hands frequently and can pick up all sorts of bacteria and viruses and things like that. “We would advise people to wash their hands after handling banknotes, and avoid touching their face. “When possible it’s a good idea to use contactless payments.”
Source: The Daily Telegraph, March 2, 2020

The WHO reportedly pushed back on the above reporting in an email by a spokesperson, Fadela Chaib to MarketWatch (a US business news website) that: “WHO did NOT say banknotes would transmit COVID-19, nor have we issued any warnings or statements about this… We were asked if we thought banknotes could transmit COVID-19 and we said you should wash your hands after handling money, especially if handling or eating food.” Doing so is “good hygiene practice”.
Source: MarketWatch, March 9, 2020

What Next?
As the WHO has constantly conveyed in their Rolling Updates on coronavirus, the disease is evolving rapidly and they continue to learn new things. It begs the question: If door handles, elevators, trains, other public transport and other common zones in affected areas are being disinfected regularly; should we be worried about transmission through banknotes and coins?

What do you think?

Image Source (Dimitri Karastelev, Unsplash)