As the coronavirus assumes pandemic proportion globally, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned that banknotes could aid the transmission of the infectious disease.
The United Nations body, therefore, counselled people to rather go cashless when making purchases.
In the event where they handle money, people should make it a regular habit to wash their hands immediately, the global health body added.
The WHO warned that coronavirus could be on the surface of banknotes for several days, hence the need for people to refrain from using money for transactions as much as possible.
WHO spokesman was quoted as saying that: “To stop the spread of the disease, people should use contactless payments where possible and wash their hands after handling cash.
“We know that money changes hands frequently and can pick up all sorts of bacteria and viruses.
“We would advise people to wash their hands after handling banknotes, and avoid touching their face.
“When possible, it would also be advisable to use contactless payments to reduce the risk of transmission,” WHO said.
A study involving a total of 1280 bank notes obtained from food outlets had shown that bacteria species often crawl across bank notes.
The study titled “dirty money: an investigation into the hygiene status of some of the world’s currencies as obtained from food outlets”, was carried out in 10 different countries including Australia, Burkina Faso, China, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Mexico, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
It revealed that the “presence of bacteria on banknotes often influenced the material of the notes”.
Coronavirus disease has spread through 64 countries with a total of 88,948 confirmed cases and 3,043 deaths.
It may be recalled that, in February, Chinese and Korean banks embarked on the disinfection and isolation of used banknotes as part of efforts to stem the spread of the virus.
“Ultraviolet light or high temperature is being used to disinfect and sterilise banknotes, before the cash is sealed and stored for up to 14 days before being recirculated,” China’s central bank disclosed at a press conference.
“Like any other surface that large numbers of people come into contact with, notes can carry bacteria or viruses.
“However, the risk posed by handling a polymer note is no greater than touching any other common surface, such as handrails, doorknobs or credit cards,” the Bank of England said.
The WHO has warned that coronavirus can be spread through contaminated objects, droplets and direct contact with infected patients.