COVID-19 transmission risk from using cash is low ─Study

*A study has indicated that chances of direct contamination using banknotes are relatively low as cash is typically stored securely in tills or wallets

Isola Moses | ConsumerConnect

The risk of catching the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic through using banknotes is low.

A research by the Bank of England has suggested that the aversion to using cash during the pandemic is unnecessary, agency report said.

The financial institution considered a plausible worst-case scenario of an infected person coughing or sneezing onto a note, and found that the level of virus on the surface began to drop rapidly after an hour. After six hours, it had declined to 5% or less.

The study finding revealed the chances of such direct contamination occurring is relatively low, as cash is typically stored securely in tills or wallets, the study found.

An infected person touching notes would result in far lower levels of the virus.

Even so, the pandemic is likely to result in lasting shifts in consumer behavior, according to report.

As well as growing adoption of online shopping as people stayed home, concerns about the spread of the virus has prompted UK stores and consumers to increasingly prefer contactless forms of payment.

Specifically, the report found that as of July 2020, 42% of people had visited a shop that did not accept cash in the previous six months, compared to 15% in January

71% of respondents were using less cash compared with before the pandemic.

The volume of Automatic Teller Machine (ATM) withdrawals was around 60% lower at the height of UK restrictions in late March than a year earlier.

It was still 40% lower in the second week of October, report stated.

Likewise, the value of cash in circulation has risen as people choose to hold more as a response to uncertainty

The report noted that “a few hours after infection, even at high doses, the levels and therefore associated risk of infection appear low.

“Further, the survival of virus on banknotes is no greater ─ indeed appears potentially less ─ than on reference surfaces representative of the many surfaces that people may come into contact with in their routine life.”

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