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Central Banks Speak Out for Cash

Guillaume Lepecq

Some media and some agencies have suspected banknotes and coins of contributing to transmit the disease. Central banks are – finally – setting the record straight.

Banknotes and coins do not pose a particular risk of infection for the public

Bundesbank Executive Board member Johannes Beermann has indicated that the risk of picking up coronavirus via cash is extremely minimal. “The probability of becoming ill from handling cash is smaller than from many other objects used in everyday life. Banknotes and coins do not pose a particular risk of infection for the public.” he said.

Moreover, €5 and €10 banknotes, which change hands particularly often as spare change, additionally have a protective coating against soiling. The Bundesbank quote René Gottschalk, infectiologist and head of the Frankfurt am Main Health Office: “In principle, it is entirely irrelevant how long pathogens can survive on surfaces.  What is decisive is whether it is an infection channel,” he explained at a press briefing. He saw no such infection channel as existing for banknotes. In addition, banknotes’ physical properties meant that they did not particularly lend themselves to transmitting pathogens.

The Central Bank of Luxembourg adds that the Eurosystem conducts regular research into the potential impact of the production and circulation of euro banknotes on public health, including in relation to viruses. So far there is no evidence of the coronavirus having been spread via euro banknotes. Germany’s Robert Koch Institute recently confirmed that “virus transmission through banknotes has no particular significance”.

The supply of cash is secure

Christian Hawkesby, Assistant Governor  of Te Putea Matua – the Reserve Bank of New Zealand says  “The Reserve Bank and the banking system have plenty of cash on hand to meet demand under any circumstances… As an example, the Reserve Bank has at least two years’ worth of replacement cash available to feed into the system if required. We can keep cash flowing to and from branches and ATMs in the event of staff shortages or other difficulties anywhere in the cash system.”

Mr Beermann stressed that the supply of cash in Germany was secure even in a crisis scenario. “We have printed more money than we need; our vaults are therefore well stocked.” He added that the Bundesbank has internal contingency and crisis plans and has taken organisational measures at its branches to ensure the supply of cash even in the event of a further spread of the coronavirus. “Cash will not run out in Germany. The supply of cash is secure,” according to Mr Beermann.

In Canada, the central bank is working with financial institutions to ensure that there is no disruption to the cash supply during this exceptional time so Canadians can continue to have access to cash when they need it.

Retailers should continue accepting cash

The Bank of Canada is asking retailers to continue accepting cash. Refusing cash could put an undue burden on people who depend on cash as a means of payment. The Bank strongly advocates that retailers continue to accept cash to ensure Canadians can have access to the goods and services they need.

The Reserve Bank of New Zealand is also reminding shoppers and retailers to practice good hand hygiene. “Cash is just one of a number of frequently touched surfaces we encounter. The same is true for any other payment device whether it’s a card, phone or watch. This reinforces the need for good hand hygiene regardless of the way you pay or accept payment.” “Retailers should use common-sense when it comes to cash. Businesses are not obliged to accept cash, but declining it may end up disadvantaging people who rely on its use. These people are more likely to be young, elderly, poor, disabled or financially excluded. Have respect and care for each other,” says Mr Hawkesby.