Cash and central banks: new study shows why fear could trigger digital currencies


The Bank for International Settlements (BIS) has released a new report on cash flow and the future of payments. Swiss bank research for central banks shows that growing concerns about the species and how the coronavirus is transmitted are among several factors that may accelerate the use of digital payments and the adoption of digital currencies.

According to the report,

“The Covid-19 pandemic has raised unprecedented public concern about viral transmission in cash. Central banks report a surge in media inquiries regarding the safe use of cash. The number of Internet searches for both “money” and “virus” is at an all-time high. “

While a new study from the National Institutes of Health, CDC, UCLA and Princeton University in the New England Journal of Medicine shows that the coronavirus can survive on surfaces, the probability of contracting the virus through bills and coins seems very unlikely unless “someone uses a bank note to sneeze,” says Dr. Christine Tait-Burkard, an infection and immunity specialist at the Roslin Institute at the University of Edinburgh.

The BRI report concludes,

“To date, there have been no known cases of Covid-19 being transmitted through notes or coins. In addition, it is unclear whether such transmission is important compared to person-to-person transmission or transmission through other objects or physical proximity. “

Despite widely available evidence that viral transmission via cash is low, BIS researchers believe that public behavior towards payments may change. As people try to minimize contact with cash, the BIS expects increased use of digital payments, including mobile, card and online.

The researchers also speculate that the increase in digital adoption opens the door to the development and use of central bank digital currencies (CBDCs).

“The pandemic can amplify calls to defend the role of cash – but also the digital currencies of central banks.”

However, the shift from physical to digital payments could have an undesirable impact on millions of consumers, including the unbanked and the elderly. Researchers say,

“If cash is not generally accepted as a means of payment, it could open a” payment divide “between those who have access to digital payments and those who do not.

To bridge the “payments gap”, the authors conclude that digital currencies such as central bank digital currencies (CBDCs) could provide contactless transactions with broad access and acceptability while allaying concerns about viral transmission.

“The pandemic could therefore place more emphasis on CBDCs, underscoring the value of having access to various means of payment and the need for any means of payment to resist a wide range of threats.”

You can view the full report here.

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