People are freaked out about COVID-19.  Governments have locked down entire countries and economies to try to stop the spread of this highly contagious coronavirus.  Some people in the media have expressed concern about the virus surviving on surfaces such as door handles, elevator buttons and yes – banknotes.  So what is the truth?

source: China Daily

DeLaRue, which prints banknotes for the United Kingdom, Fiji, Scotland and dozens of other countries, tested related corona viruses as far back as 2006.  They found that very little virus could be found on banknotes and if they sat overnight, no ‘live’ virus could be found.  Recently Hong Kong did some testing and found similar results.  Even the WHO had to come out and clarify that banknotes and coins are not transmitting COVID-19.  Viruses, bacteria and fungi don’t survive long on dry surfaces.  Even the dirtiest, darkest banknotes don’t have living microbes on them.

Paper Banknote, New Zealand 5 Dollars, 1992, Source: Banknote World Educational
Polymer Banknote, New Zealand 5 Dollars, 2014, Source: Banknote World

Paper banknotes tends to have more surface so maybe they can hold more viruses (even COVID-19) than polymer notes, but polymer notes will not wick away the moisture so if there is live virus, maybe it lives longer on plastic, but that would be just as true for credit cards, cell phones and a lot of other things we are touching.


Banks including South Korea and Hungary have agreed to treat their notes to UV and heat to make sure everything is dead.  And other countries including the United Arab Emirates are quarantining their notes before they reissue them.  Is that necessary?  No.  Helpful?  Absolutely not.  The worry is that the person handing you cash just sneezed on it, or the person who handed it to them sneezed on it. Fair enough.  But the issue is the same with everything you are handed that someone else touches.  So the same common sense guidance holds true if you use banknotes or a credit card.  Wash your hands.  Don’t touch your face, and if someone sneezes on something they are trying to hand you, say no thanks and move on. 

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