A study published in the international journal, Risk Analysis, assesses the risk of contracting COVID-19 by exposure to the virus when using cash as a form of payment.
In the study’s abstract, authors Jack F. Schijven, Mark Wind, Daniel Todt, John Howes, Barbora Tamele, and Eike Steinmann wrote, “A quantitative microbial risk assessment was conducted for a scenario assuming an infectious person at the onset of symptoms, when virion concentrations in coughed droplets are at their highest. This person then contaminates a banknote by coughing on it and immediately hands it over to another person, who might then be infected by transferring the virions with a finger from the contaminated banknote to a facial mucous membrane. The scenario considered transfer efficiency of virions on the banknote to fingertips when droplets were still wet and after having dried up and subsequently being touched by finger printing or rubbing the object.”
The authors also noted that their study did not assess other possible transmission methods such as cash that has been held in a wallet, cash machine, pocket, or used alongside precautionary measures such as face masks, hand cleaning, and rubber gloves. They recognized that use of such precautions and storage methods would probably “lead to a lower amount of virions transferred. During storage of cash in wallets, cash machines, and pockets, virus numbers will decrease significantly.”
Transmission Not Likely
As a point of discussion, the study’s authors noted that, “The virus transmission route that was chosen, that is, coughing onto a banknote and then immediately passing it to another person by hand, can be assumed to happen only very rarely in public life because it is neither socially acceptable nor courteous, and people would normally avoid such an action. During the pandemic, it probably became even less likely due to hygienic measures, social distancing, wearing of masks, and increased awareness.”
As a conclusion, the study found that the overall risk of transmission of the COVID-19 Pandemic via cash is “very low”. Continued confirmation of this fact is welcome news to millions of people around the world who rely on cash to purchase the goods and services they need on an everyday basis.