Exposing bank notes to sunshine could be a possible solution to stymie the potential spread of the coronavirus through paper currencies, doctors in the UAE have said, while urging people to be cautious – but not overly scared – while handling cash.
“The virus is very fragile to ultraviolet and we have plenty of that in the UAE. Exposing the bank notes to the sunshine is going to kill all the germs and coins can be washed with soap and water or sprayed with alcoholic solution,” explained Dr Cyril Noel, Head of Emergency Services at Medcare Hospitals & Medical Centres.
He added: “If cash is unavoidable, it’s very important to wash your hands after touching money which is always dirty. Carrying a hand sanitiser in the form of a small spray of towels is very useful.”
Fears over paper currencies carrying the contagion became pronounced after a recent study conducted by Australian agency CSIRO revealed that the Covid-19 virus is “extremely robust” in nature and can remain infectious on bank notes for up to 28 days.
Avoid cash transactions
As bank notes are circulated widely and have a potential to spread the virus, doctors reiterated that contactless payment or at best card payments should be adopted as the preferred mode of transactions.
Dr Madhumita Kumar, Head – Infection Control Committee, Aster Hospitals, Dubai and ENT Specialist, Aster Hospital, Mankhool pointed out: “In this pandemic, there is always a possibility of bank notes and coins harbouring the virus, especially if someone has sneezed directly on them as they change hands. Generally speaking, it is better to avoid cash transactions wherever possible.
When unavoidable, make sure hands are washed before touching the nose or mouth because the only way one can get sick is if the hands touch the contaminated currency and then the face.”
However, doctors also underlined that the study says that the experiments were carried out in virus-friendly conditions. “The same may not apply in a real world situation. But having said that, prevention is always better than cure,” cautioned Mohamad Hamad, Infection Control Manager, VPS Healthcare.
Hamad added that the best way we can avoid infection from coins and currency notes is by making use of the e-payment facility.
However, when handling currency or using the wallet, healthcare professionals frequently advise once home, it’s important to keep everything aside, take off the mask and wash one’s hands first.
“Another option is that we sanitise coins and currency notes by spraying sanitiser solution on them. The solution must have an alcohol concentration of over 60 per cent. Coins can also be sanitised with soap and water. Hand hygiene is essential and on top of everything else.” stressed Dr Hamad.