The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2019 led to viral misinformation spreading online regarding the safety of banknote use and the danger of handling cash. Both the Dutch bank DNB and the Bank of England have since highlighted the evolution of the use of banknotes over the last year, with a marked fall in banknote transactions, due not only to the global decrease in consumer spending, but also to concerns regarding the spread of the virus via the banknotes themselves. The Bank of China notably began isolating and disinfecting banknotes to stem the spread of the disease in early 2020. Nevertheless, there has never been such a high quantity of cash in circulation, with people often maintaining cash reserves as a safeguard in the event of a crisis.
Such fears were aggravated by an article published by the British Daily Telegraph in March 2020 claiming that the World Health Organization (WHO) was advising people to avoid using banknotes to help alleviate the spread of the virus. The WHO subsequently issued a statement via Marketwatch asserting that this was a misrepresentation, but uneasiness surrounding the use of banknotes remained.
Consequently, as part of the wider efforts and containing the spread of the pandemic, multinational companies began to develop and advocate new biotechnologies with the aim of mitigating such fears. The French company Oberthur Fiduciaire proved to be ahead of the game. Its existing Bioguard technology, developed via its subsidiary VHP Security Paper, proved effective in combatting the spread of coronavirus on banknotes when the first tests were carried out in March 2020.
Oberthur Fiduciaire – At the Forefront of Secure Banknote Printing
Oberthur Fiduciaire has been a major player in the printing industry since 1842, with their expertise in recent times being particularly focused on the safe and secure printing of banknotes for governments and central banks. The company has prided itself on its innovation and ability to evolve, develop and reinvent itself in line with modern technological development, as explained by CEO Thomas Savare:
“We have to master the printing techniques themselves, but we also have to master the job of integrating different technologies, different substrates and different security features. We have to do that within an environment that is highly industrial, because we’re supplying billions of individuals with products that are numbered and personalised. And these products need to be so secure that forgery would be impossible, with the resistance needed to last the day-to-day use of a banknote.”
The company’s commitment to innovation has in recent years expanded to the development of biotechnologies with the aim of protecting its products from viral and fungal infections. Long term collaborations with laboratories in the United States have led to the development of a biotechnology specifically designed to combat the spread of infectious diseases on product surfaces: Bioguard.
Bioguard – Perfectly Adapted for Fighting COVID-19
Within the framework of its focus on secure banknote printing, the company produced an antiviral, anti-fungal technology known as Bioguard to be applied to the surface of a wide range of products to “protect their surface and reduce the risk of transmission.” This technology, produced prior to the outbreak of the pandemic, has proved to be an effective shield against the propagation of bacteria and fungi that pose a risk to public health, especially in countries with high humidity.
The Bioguard treatment was developed to be applied both as a paper treatment and as a post-print varnish, with the aim of providing long-term protection to banknotes during their entire period of circulation. The treatment accelerates “destruction of some viruses, including OC43 which comes from the coronavirus family to which COVID-19 belongs,” with a 99% success rate during tests, in accordance with the standard ASTM E 1063-97. Both the paper treatment and the varnish use a silver-based component, enabling “significant antiviral activity.”
So How Does it Work?
Oberthur Fiduciaire called upon the reputable U.S.-based Biological Consulting Services to carry out the necessary tests on its Bioguard product relating to efficacy against coronavirus strains and to better analyse the pathogens to be targeted. The tests carried out proved the near total destruction of the OC43 coronavirus sample, known to affect humans.
The Bioguard technology developed accelerates the process of viral destruction on banknotes. By accelerating this viral destruction, the treatment avoids the risks associated with contamination during banknote exchanges. With a silver-based component, the protection offered by Bioguard is also visible against bacteria and agents responsible for plague and cholera, and has no effect on the banknote’s physical and aesthetic properties.
With a notable decline in public trust relating to the continued use of banknotes during a global health crises encouraged by online misinformation, solutions such as Bioguard are tailor-made for restoring confidence in physical banknote transactions. The product has already been deployed to tackle the spread of COVID-19, notably by the Bank of Botswana.