In the fight against the corona virus, China not only sends people into quarantine, but also money. In mid-February, the central bank's deputy head, Fan Yifei, announced that banks would disinfect and seal used banknotes and then store them for seven to 14 days. Only then would they be used again.
In fact, hardly any object changes hands as often as banknotes. And with the realization that COVID – 19 can survive for days on surfaces and remain contagious, the fear of money is growing in this country in view of the spread in Europe.
Numerous retailers have provided disinfectants at their cash registers and have instructed their employees, who have to handle hundreds of bills and coins a day, to wash their hands frequently or even put on disposable gloves. But is the concern justified?
Banks see responsibility with the customer
The European Central Bank does not assume that there is a risk of infection with the corona virus Contact with cash is particularly great. “So far, there is no evidence that the corona virus was transmitted via banknotes,” said an ECB spokeswoman when asked by Tagesspiegel.
The Bundesbank also confirms this on demand and also points out that the Eurosystem regularly carries out investigations into whether the production or circulation of euro banknotes can have an impact on public health – also in the Virus related.
The precautions for hand hygiene also apply to money
“For citizens, the same hand hygiene measures are recommended for handling banknotes and coins as for All other everyday items, such as doorknobs, shopping carts or payment terminals, “the Bundesbank goes on to say.
The public banks do not see themselves as responsible either. “As far as I know, ATMs cannot be protected against infections,” says a spokesman for the Federal Association of Deutsche Volksbanken and Raiffeisenbanken (BVR) on behalf of the entire German banking industry. “Rather, people have to protect themselves from not being infected. This is no different in a bus, in a supermarket, in a fitness center or at work than at an ATM.”
Transmission via dry surfaces unlikely
When asked how high the probability of a transmission by cash is, the financial institutions refer to research institutions such as the Robert Koch Institute (RKI ). On request, users are informed that transmission via inanimate surfaces has not yet been documented. “Infection with SARS-CoV-2 via surfaces that do not belong to the immediate surroundings of a symptomatic patient, such as imported goods, mail items or luggage, therefore seems unlikely.”
However, one could very well object, a banknote is also part of the “immediate environment” of an infected person. In turn, the RKI declares the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) responsible for this demand. This confirms that no reports of infections from contact with dry surfaces are known for other corona viruses.
Theoretically, transmissions via surfaces that were previously contaminated with viruses are conceivable through smear infections. “However, due to the relatively low stability of coronaviruses in the environment, this is only likely to occur shortly after contamination,” it continues.
Coronaviruses can remain infectious for up to nine days
Scientists from the University of Greifswald and Ruhr University Bochum had published findings in early February that corona viruses can remain on surfaces at room temperature for up to nine days and remain infectious. On average, they survive between four and five days, cold and high humidity increased their lifespan.
The BfR also refers to these studies when it comes to banknotes. However, other corona viruses such as Mers or Sars were the specific subject of consideration. However, the scientists assume that the results can be transferred to COVID – 19.