Is it safe to use currency notes during this COVID-19 pandemic?

Is it safe to use currency notes during this COVID-19 pandemic?

Last Reviewed : 12/15/2020
Is it safe to use currency notes during this COVID-19 pandemic?

As the COVID-19 pandemic spread all across the globe, it also created panic among masses. While some people are not paying close attention to the recommendations made by health authorities, others are taking extreme precautions to protect themselves and their families. In most of the developed countries, currency is rarely used for business transactions. However, in developing nations, using currency notes is still the predominant way of conducting small business transactions. There is a fear that COVID-19 may spread by using currency notes. In this article, we review the evidence available and the precautions to take to prevent COVID-19.

Novel Coronavirus can survive outside the human body from few hours to several days. Survival rate of the virus depends on the type of the surface. Based on a recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, experiments were performed on plastic, stainless steel, copper and cardboard. Apparently, the virus was more stable on plastic and stainless steel than on copper and cardboard. Coronavirus was found in a significant amount of titers on plastic up to 72 hours. On stainless steel, it was found in significant titers up to 48 hours. On copper, no viable virus was measured after 4 hours. On cardboard, no viable virus was measured after 24 hours. Another study published in the Journal of Hospital Infection, it was found that coronaviruses can survive up to 9 days on non-living objects.

Based on these studies, it is evident that Novel Coronavirus can survive for a long time outside the human body. The virus can spread if any object is contaminated by the droplets expelled from an infected person. When a healthy person touches the contaminated object and touches his or her nose, mouth or eyes, virus can enter the human body, causing infection.

If an infected person coughs or sneezes on the currency notes and if a healthy person touches the contaminated notes, theoretically, there may be a risk of spread of Novel Coronavirus infection. However, there are no cases documented so far, where the infection spread by currency notes.

As there may be some theoretical risk, it is critical to take necessary precautions. Regular handwashing or using a hand-sanitizer is important to prevent COVID-19 infection. For small business owners who deal with currency notes all day, it becomes even more important to wash hands with soap and water regularly or at least use hand-sanitizer frequently. Wearing gloves may seem to be protective but touching nose, mouth or eyes with gloves may still spread the infection.




  • Van Doremalen et al. Aerosol and Surface Stability of SARS-CoV-2 as Compared with SARS-CoV-1. N Engl J Med.
  • Kampf G et al. Persistence of coronaviruses on inanimate surfaces and their inactivation with biocidal agents. J Hosp Infect. 2020 Mar;104(3):246-251. doi: 10.1016/j.jhin.2020.01.022.

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