The European Central Bank (ECB) has released the findings of its research project conducted in collaboration with Ruhr-Universität Bochum, concluding there is only a “very low” risk of catching COVID from handling cash.

Contagion, the study found, occurs mainly via air transmission, and the transmission of the virus via surfaces only plays a very minor role in its spread.

The research, titled ‘catch me (if you can)‘ explained that the usage of cash plummeted as the pandemic took hold, significantly because of the impact of a fear handling the money would spread the virus.

Indeed, the ECB reported that in parallel to a decreased use of cash, card payments became more frequent, with 40 per cent of respondents to a July 2020 survey reporting using contactless payment methods more often.

Asked why they used less cash, 38 per cent of respondents indicated it was due to fears of being infected by the banknote itself, whereas another 33 per cent identified concerns about coming into contact with the cashier.

Addressing these concerns, the bank found that the virus could survive for varying amounts of time of banknotes and coins, up to several days, albeit at very low levels.

However, as the ECB points out, even if the virus is present on cash, it would need to be transferred to a person’s hand and then to their mucosal routes for it to infect them.

The bank concluded: “Based on our test results, recent scientific literature on SARS-CoV-2 transferability and also our previous findings on the avian flu and swine flu viruses, it can be concluded that the risk of transmission via banknotes and coins is very low, and that cash is safe to use”.


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