Handling banknotes poses only a small risk of spreading Covid-19, the Bank of England said, after commissioning research to find out how long the virus lasts in cash.
The use of banknotes has fallen sharply since the pandemic struck in March, and the bank said one reason could be fears that cash could carry the virus.
After reopening after the first lockdown, many stores and hospitality places encouraged consumers to make contactless payments, while some refused to take money.
However, the Bank’s research found that the risk of contracting coronavirus from handling banknotes was much lower than the risk of contracting it by breathing air particles in a store or touching items such as shopping baskets. shopping, door handles or self-service payment terminals.
His study involved a very high dose of coronavirus, equivalent to someone coughing or sneezing directly on the banknote, and included tests on paper and polymer £ 10 bills. After contamination, the banknotes were stored at room temperature and tested several times.
The study found that the virus level remained stable for an hour, but over the next five hours it declined rapidly, and after 24 hours it had fallen to less than 1% on both types of notes.
Although the Bank warned that “just because low levels of the virus are seen does not mean they are at a level that can cause infection,” she said other surfaces showed. more risk when people were on the move.
The move away from cash has been a long-term trend, but the crisis has accelerated changes in purchasing habits and the options available to consumers. Some campaign groups have warned that this risks leaving vulnerable people without access to cash even though they may depend on it.
The Bank’s research showed that on the eve of the national lockdown in March, demand for banknotes increased as people withdrew money in response to increased uncertainty.
Gareth Shaw, of consumer group Which ?, said: “Digital payments are just not an option for some consumers – especially if they are vulnerable or live in isolated communities – and it is essential that they do not not be abandoned.
“Bank of England study showing low risk of transmission of Covid via cash should give retailers confidence they can accept it to help millions of consumers who depend on cash . “