Does using cash increase the risk of being infected with coronavirus?

USD Zimbabwe Dollar Bond notes

On Friday President Mnangagwa did the inevitable by initiating a 21-day lockdown to tame the spread of coronavirus in Zimbabwe. In doing so, Zimbabwe has followed the paths of other countries such as South Africa, Rwanda, and Italy which have implemented lockdowns as well.

As people scramble to avoid contracting Covid-19, new theories are emerging concerning the spreading of the virus through the use of cash. Zimbabwe’s lockdown will still allow people to visit food markets and motorists to refuel at service stations, allowing the exchange of cash.

The issue of the spreading of coronavirus has been making the rounds on the internet, inspiring fear, and paranoia. Actually, some criminals in South Africa rode on this paranoia by walking up to the doorsteps of unsuspecting people and asking them to hand over their cash so that it gets disinfected of coronavirus. 

The South African Reserve Bank was prompted to issue a statement telling people that it is not sending its emissaries to collect people’s cash to disinfect.

The SARB has neither withdrawn any banknotes or coins, nor issued any instruction to hand in banknotes or coins that may be contaminated with the Covid-19 virus. The SARB will not, under any circumstances, send employees or representatives to collect cash from the public

SARB didn’t go as far as its counterpart in China, the Chinese central bank, which disinfected some of its cash using ultraviolet light and issued new ‘hygienic’ cash to curb the spread of Covid-19. South Korea also disinfected some of its cash.

As if that’s not enough to inspire the fear of using cash, America’s Federal Reserve started putting US dollars repatriated from Asia in a 10-day quarantine. Not to mention a statement by a WHO official that encouraged people to use digital payments in order to avoid spreading and contracting coronavirus- however, the statement was later retracted.

All these acts served only to add fuel to the theory that cash shouldn’t be used during the Covid-19 pandemic. In fact, a handful of small businesses in the US stopped accepting cash as a form of payment in fear of contracting coronavirus.

Ever since these chain of events took place many people are asking whether it’s still safe to use cash during this pandemic.

Is cash still safe to use during the Covid-19 pandemic?

Cash is generally considered dirty. Both bacteria and viruses call money their home. The US dollar material is made up of 75% cotton and 25% linen, making it a sanctuary where bacteria and viruses thrive.

A recent study found (pdf) out that coronavirus can live on paper for hours to days. And if you take a trip down the memory lane in the coronavirus world you will stumble upon a 2003 study which concluded that SARS, a variant of Covid-19 lives for 72 hours on paper. Since Covid-19 has similar characteristics like SARS, the conclusion can be reasonably applied to Covid-19.

The handling of money itself doesn’t infect you since coronavirus doesn’t enter your body through the skin of your hands. It is when you touch your eyes, nose, and mouth with infected hands that coronavirus enters your body. That’s why there has been a growing chorus by health authorities urging people to wash hands and not touch their faces. 

Cash like any other material where coronavirus can thrive poses a high risk of infection if people don’t wash their hands after touching it. Therefore, its a case of “yes and no” when answering the question of whether cash spreads coronavirus.

Generally speaking, coronavirus is not thought to be spreading through the exchange of cash. It’s still not conclusively known whether the use of cash poses a high risk in spreading coronavirus. 

In the event that it’s established that cash poses a high risk in spreading coronavirus, then people will be forced to use ‘hygenic payment methods’- digital payment methods like credit and debit cards, NFC and mobile money. However, even if you use digital payment methods like credit cards you will still have to wash your hands.

Are you still afraid to use cash? What do you think about arguments in this article?  Tell us by commenting below.

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