The risk of getting coronavirus from handling banknotes is low, according to research by the Bank of England.
Many shoppers and retailers avoided dealing with physical cash during the pandemic but are turning to alternatives such as cards.
But an article on the bank’s website said pin keyboards, as well as other surfaces touched by multiple people in stores – such as shopping carts, baskets, and self-checks – may also pose a risk.
Scientific tests have been ordered to better understand how the coronavirus behaves on its banknotes.
The findings suggest that the virus does not survive very long on high-level banknotes.
They also suggest that there is no substantial difference in the viability of the virus on polymer or paper banknotes – and that the survival of the virus on banknotes is no greater and may even be lower than on other surfaces with which people often come into contact.
The quarterly report published on the Bank’s website stated: “So what is the relative risk associated with handling cash?
“In a retail environment, the greatest risk of infection would be the direct result of inhaling exhaled droplets or aerosols in the vicinity of an infected person in the store, or possibly touching a ‘high-touch’ item such as the handles of shopping baskets or shopping trolleys, pin keypads, products on open shelves or the touchscreens of self-checkout terminals.
“Cash is typically stored securely in wallets, cash registers or vaults, which means that the risk of direct contamination is much lower than exposed surfaces in shops or residential areas to which exhaled droplets from an infected person could fall.
“Contamination of banknotes, where it can occur, is most likely indirect through transmission from the hands of an infected person or when someone touches an infected surface and then touches a banknote. Any contamination through these routes would likely result in much lower levels of the virus than from direct contamination as modeled in this study. “
According to the article, the study involved a very high dose of a coronavirus, “representing a plausible worst-case scenario,” applied to a banknote.
The dosage was equal to someone who coughed or sneezed directly on the note.
The study found that the virus level on a banknote remained stable for one hour after exposure. Over the next five hours, the amount of virus present decreased rapidly.
After six hours, virus drops on banknotes had fallen to 5% or less of their original levels on both paper and polymer notes, the article said.
It added that plastic and steel surfaces were also tested that people can come into contact with in everyday life.
Similar declines were noted on these surfaces – although the decline in viability on some of these was not as great as on banknotes.
Importantly, 24 hours after exposure, the virus was only present at very low concentrations on all surfaces tested by the study.
The bulletin said, “Where contamination occurs, this work shows that the virus typically declines rapidly over a period of hours, and does not pose a greater risk than other surfaces that people come into contact with as part of their daily life.”
It continued: “In summary, any risk in handling cash should be low.
“Current government regulations for wearing masks in stores to minimize the spread of exhaled droplets and aerosols, and government advice to maintain good hand hygiene to avoid any risk of touching the many surfaces people use in their daily lives. or working life encounter, reduce, when visiting stores.
“Brief interactions with cash are only part of that wider environment and should be seen in context.”