A research commissioned by the Bank of England aiming to find out how long the virus lasts on cash and bank notes has suggested that a low risk of spreading Covid-19 is posed by handling bank notes, said the Bank of England (BoE).
Since the pandemic hit in March, there has been a sharp drop in the use of notes. Fear that cash can carry the virus is one of the reasons, the BoE said.
Consumers were encouraged by fears that cash can carry the virus to use contactless payments while some flatly refused to take any cash after reopening following the first lockdown.
However compared to getting infected by the novel coronavirus from breathing air particles in a shop, or from touching items such as shopping baskets, door handles or self-checkout terminals that are already infected by the virus, the risk of getting infected of Covid-19 from handling bank notes was much lower, the Bank’s research found.
Smearing a very high dose of coronavirus on the bank note, same as someone coughing or sneezing, was used to conduct eth study. It also included tests on £10 notes made of paper and polymer. Researchers stored the notes at room temperature and tested them repeatedly following the contamination.
For an hour, the level of virus remained stable, the study found, and then declined rapidly over the next five hours. The level of virus dropped to less than 1% on both types of note after 24 hours, the study found.
“Just because low levels of virus are observed, it does not mean that they are at a level that can cause infection”, the BoE however concluded, but also added that more risks of people getting infected was posed by other surfaces.
People choosing to use cards or digital payments systems instead of cash have been a growing trend for long. But the shift has been accelerated by the health crisis along with changes in shopping habits of consumers as well as the options available to them for shopping. However, according to some campaign groups, this shift makes those people who have no access to cash and are reliant on it more vulnerable.
With people withdrawing cash in heightened uncertainty, there was an increase in demand for bank notes after the announcement of the national lockdown in the United Kingdom, the BoE’s research showed.
“Digital payments simply aren’t an option for some consumers – particularly if they are vulnerable or live in isolated communities – and it is vital that they are not abandoned. The Bank of England’s research showing the risk of Covid transmission via cash is low should give retailers confidence that they can accept it to help the millions of consumers who rely on cash,” said Gareth Shaw, from the consumer group Which?.
(Adapted from TheGuardian.com)