The World Health Organisation (WHO) warned that banknotes may be spreading Coronavirus and advised people to use contactless technology instead of cash.
The global health body which gave the warning Monday night, noted that the infectious COVID-19 virus could be carried on the surface of banknotes for several days.
To stop the spread of the disease, people should use contactless payments where possible and wash their hands after handling cash, a WHO spokesman said.
Last month banks in China and Korea began disinfecting and isolating used banknotes as part of efforts to stem the spread of the deadly virus.
Ultraviolet light or high temperature is being used to disinfect and sterilise banknotes, before the cash is sealed and stored for up to 14 days before being recirculated, China’s central bank said at a press conference.
Coronavirus can be spread through contaminated objects as well as droplets and direct contact with infected patients, the WHO said.
“We know that money changes hands frequently and can pick up all sorts of bacteria and viruses,” a spokesman told the Telegraph.
“We would advise people to wash their hands after handling banknotes, and avoid touching their face.
“When possible it would also be advisable to use contactless payments to reduce the risk of transmission.”
It is not yet known how long the coronavirus can survive outside the human body.
It has been suggested that human coronaviruses can remain infectious on contaminated objects for as long as nine days at room temperature in an analysis of 22 earlier studies of similar viruses, including Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) published online this month in the Journal of Hospital Infection according to Yahoo news.
However, common disinfectants can swiftly remove them, and they may also be destroyed by high temperatures, the authors wrote. It is not yet clear whether the new coronavirus also behaves in this way.