Chinese officials are waging an unexpected war on cash in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak – amid fears that contaminated banknotes could spread the deadly virus.
The country’s central People’s Bank of China (PBoC) has launched a campaign that, per the South China Morning Post, will see it and other banks disinfect used banknotes, seal and quarantine them for up to 14 days to limit the spread of the infection that has reportedly killed almost 1,700 people.
Cryptocurrency and blockchain-powered payments advocates will likely point to the move as another reason why cash’s days are numbered – with Chinese companies already reportedly turning to blockchain-based solutions that allow individuals and businesses to pay online, and avoid spreading the virus through person-to-person contact.
Recent research from the United States showed that the deadly virus may be able to survive on inanimate objects for well over a week – and could show particular longevity on metal and plastic surfaces.
The development could further encourage Chinese businesses hoping to switch from cash to digital payments.
With health and hygiene now paramount in China and other countries fighting the virus, dirty cash is already coming under threat from Industry 4.0-era alternatives.
Media reports claim that business heavyweights like Alibaba are looking to rollout “contactless” bidding solutions for e-pay programs – to help businesses make payments online.
As part of the PBoC’s efforts, staff at banks across the country will use ultraviolet light or high temperatures to disinfect yuan bills before they are put into storage.
The same media outlet quotes Fan Yifei, the deputy governor of the PBoC, as saying that banks have been ordered to provide new banknotes to customers whenever possible in a bid to “secure the public’s safety and health when using cash”.
The deputy governor said that China’s central bank has already carried out an “emergency issuance” of USD 573 million in new notes to Hubei province – the area worst hit by the outbreak.
The latest data from the World Health Organization shows that there have been 51,857 laboratory-confirmed cases of the virus, including 51,174 infections in China, and 683 cases in 25 other countries worldwide, including the United States, Canada, the UK and other parts of Europe, Asia, and Africa.