Wash, disinfect, and even destroy banknotes and coins to combat coronavirus expansion. These are the new measures recently announced by the Chinese government and already launched by the Popular Bank of China, the country's central bank.
From now on, all bank offices in China must wash their notes and coins before putting them into circulation. They must first be exposed to ultraviolet light and high temperatures, then stored for seven to fourteen days.
Moreover, money from high-risk areas of infection, such as hospitals and live pet markets, will receive specific treatment. This means that the money will be returned to the central bank instead of re-circulated, and in some cases physically destroyed, rather than disinfected.
To compensate for the possible loss of liquidity caused by these measures, the Popular Bank of China has already sent 4 billion yuan (more than 527 million euros) in new banknotes to Wuhan, the city where the coronavirus outbreak appeared.
The Chinese banking authority has also announced the suspension of physical money transfers between provinces affected by the coronavirus.
Money can be incredibly dirty, according to the study 'Filthy lucre: A metagenomic pilot study of microbes found on circulating currency in New York City', led by biologist Jane Carlton at New York University. The list of things found on US dollar bills included DNA from pets, traces of drugs, and bacteria and viruses. Each banknote, passed from a person to another samples a bit of the environment it comes from, and all those 'bits' are passed to the next person. And so, indefinitely.
According to the World Health Organization, the virus can survive on the surfaces for at least a few hours. For that reason, surfaces that are commonly touched on a daily basis, such as door locks or elevator buttons, are regularly disinfected in China since the advent of Covid-19. However, banknotes and coins are rarely used, especially in urban areas of China; payments are usually made with mobile phone.
All of these precautionary measures have been launched when it is currently unclear how infected the banknotes and coins are in China.
Nearly 72,500 infected
To limit the spread of the virus, Chinese authorities have implemented other drastic measures including placing 60 million people under full or partial lockdown. Since the spread of Covid-19 started, more than 72,400 people have been infected in mainland China, and 60 more in Hong Kong. Worldwide, the number of infected reaches 73,335. To date, 1,873 deaths have been reported, of which only four are outside China.
One of the latest victims was Liu Zhiming, a 50-year-old neurosurgeon and director of the Wuhan Hospital. He is the first person in charge of a medical center to die from coronavirus.
It has been also reported that 12,800 people who were infected with coronavirus have fully recovered.