WHO Official Says People Should Go Cashless Because Banknotes Can Pick up Coronavirus

March 5, 2020 Updated: March 5, 2020

Banknotes might be spreading the COVID-19 coronavirus so people should try to use contactless payments instead, an official with the World Health Organization (WHO) said.

People should wash their hands after touching paper currency and coins because the virus might cling to the surface for several days, an official with the U.N. agency told The Daily Telegraph. But they urged that people should use contactless technology when it’s possible.

“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,” said a WHO spokesperson. “We would advise people to wash their hands after handling banknotes, and avoid touching their face,” they added. “When possible it’s a good idea to use contactless payments.”

It’s not clear how long the novel coronavirus can survive outside the human body.

A spokesperson for the Bank of England also noted that the virus could potentially spread via banknotes.

“Like any other surface that large numbers of people come into contact with, notes can carry bacteria or viruses. However, the risk posed by handling a polymer note is no greater than touching any other common surface, such as handrails, doorknobs or credit cards,” the spokesperson told the news outlet.

According to news reports, China’s central bank said it would begin disinfecting its yuan currency at high temperatures and with ultraviolet light before it is placed under a 14-day quarantine. Fan Yifei, deputy governor of the Chinese central bank, said that banknotes at hospitals, buses, and markets will be destroyed, and 600 billion yuan ($86 billion) will be printed and placed in circulation.