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Can cash spread the coronavirus?

Last Updated Aug 25, 2020 at 12:06 pm PST

File (iStock)

The risk of COVID-19 transmission via cash is low, according to the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control

Wash your hands before touching your face or eating: BCCDC

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Can using cash spread the coronavirus?


The B.C. Centre for Disease Control says the risk of getting COVID-19 from handling physical money is “low,” as is touching documents, doorknobs, and handrails.

“It is safe to handle cash and documents. However, it would be advisable to wash your hands frequently, and always before eating, after using the washroom, and before touching your face,” the BCCDC says online.

Some businesses have stopped accepting cash during the pandemic, but the agency says doing so can “put an undue burden on people who depend on cash as a means of payment.”

A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that the coronavirus can survive on stainless steel and plastic for up to 72 hours.

But Carolyn Machamer, a Johns Hopkins School of Medicine professor who has long studied coronaviruses, said some headlines about the study have been misleading.

“What’s getting a lot of press and is presented out of context is that the virus can last on plastic for 72 hours – which sounds really scary. But what’s more important is the amount of the virus that remains. It’s less than 0.1% of the starting virus material,” she said in a blog post, adding that small amount makes the risk of infection “theoretically possible but unlikely.”

Cleaning surfaces is a “very effective” way to kill the novel coronavirus, she said, noting the risk of contracting COVID-19 is much more likely to happen via airborne droplets.

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