China begins disinfecting bank notes as coronavirus scare grows
- Published: Feb 24, 2020, 8 AM
The coronavirus, which as of Feb. 21 had resulted in more than 2,200 human deaths and over 76,600 illnesses from the disease, is also taking a toll on money in China.
Agence-France Presse disclosed that Chinese banks, under instructions from the central bank, the Bank of China, are now disinfecting and isolating used bank notes as part of an effort to stymie the spread of the disease.
The banks are using ultraviolet light and high temperatures on paper money, after which it is being sealed and stored for up to two weeks, depending on the region, before the currency will be released again into circulation.
At a Feb. 15 press conference, a deputy governor of China’s central bank, Fan Yifei, said that banks should provide new bank notes to customers whenever possible, and in an effort to help, it released 4 billion yuan worth of new currency into circulation in Hubei province, where the disease has been centered.
But, as Agence-France Presse pointed out, the efficacy of the move is unclear, since so many Chinese now prefer mobile payments over cash. According to other reports, plastic cards and terminals are not immune from contamination. Users are not in the habit of cleaning their cards, and terminals and key pads are not regularly disinfected.
Even more extreme measures are being taken in the southern city of Guangzhou, where the local branch of the central bank says it will destroy all bank notes collected by hospitals, buses, and markets selling perishable goods such as fresh meat, fish and produce, to ensure no cash transactions will be contaminated.
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