When possible I avoid paying by cash and use contactless payments as much as I can, especially as of late. However, some outlets won't take card payments so cash exchange is inevitable.

I am worried about the potential that coronaviruses may have to survive for relatively long periods of time (days) on banknotes. Obviously I am thinking specifically about the COVID-19 infection given its current quasi-pandemic status but, despite the many news articles, I do not believe there are studies that have zeroed in on it yet.

I have found the following studies:

  1. Survival of Influenza Virus on Banknotes
  2. Paper Money and Coins as Potential Vectors of Transmissible Disease
  3. Persistence of coronaviruses on inanimate surfaces and their inactivation with biocidal agents
  4. Filthy lucre: A metagenomic pilot study of microbes found on circulating currency in New York City

The first is a study about influenza viruses and not coronaviruses.

The second article mentions coronaviruses only once but they are not the subject of the study.

The third study is recent (mentions SARS-CoV-2) and is about coronaviruses, but it deals with other inanimate surfaces, especially stainless steel, and does not mention money or banknotes.

The fourth study is a pilot, which deals specifically with banknotes (US dollars) but, since both samples in the study returned a low viral count ("In both sets the number of archaeal and viral sequences detected was low (< 1%), and were not analyzed further.") they did not drill down into specifics.

I am more worried about paper money and less worried about coins, as coins can easily be wiped with a disinfectant which can effectively kill viruses.

The specific question I have:

Can coronaviruses survive in sufficient concentration (sufficient means enough to enable it to reach the respiratory tract via finger contamination) on banknotes, and for how long?

I am not looking for news articles, even if they come from reputable sources (such as The Guardian, BBC, CNN, etc.). I am after studies that demonstrate virus survival rates.

  • Unless this is purely an academic study, err on the side of caution, assume it can survive for days/weeks, and demand your employees / tellers / cashiers WASH THEIR HANDS frequently after handling money and especially before they eat or touch other surfaces – public wireless Mar 29 '20 at 2:21

In short, studies have not been done on banknotes, but WHO and the US CDC estimate that the new coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) may survive on surfaces for hours to several days and say that the transmission via surfaces is unlikely and has not been proven so far.

The US Center of Disease Control and Prevention, as of March 3, 2020 says:

...transmission of SARS-CoV-2 to persons from surfaces contaminated with the virus has not been documented.

Current evidence suggests that SARS-CoV-2 may remain viable for hours to days on surfaces made from a variety of materials.

World Health Organization says:

It is not certain how long the virus that causes COVID-19 survives on surfaces, but it seems to behave like other coronaviruses. Studies suggest that coronaviruses (including preliminary information on the COVID-19 virus) may persist on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days. This may vary under different conditions (e.g. type of surface, temperature or humidity of the environment).

If you think a surface may be infected, clean it with simple disinfectant to kill the virus and protect yourself and others. Clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water. Avoid touching your eyes, mouth, or nose.

and on another page:

Even though the new coronavirus can stay on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days (depending on the type of surface), it is very unlikely that the virus will persist on a surface after it has been moved, travelled, and exposed to different conditions and temperatures.


Is it safe to receive a package from any area where COVID-19 has been reported?

Yes. The likelihood of an infected person contaminating commercial goods is low and the risk of catching the virus that causes COVID-19 from a package that has been moved, travelled, and exposed to different conditions and temperature is also low.

  • *”the new coronavirus, now called SARS-CoV-2” ... wasn’t it always calls SARS-CoV-2? I thought COVID-19 was always the name for the disease and not the virus. – Chris Rogers Mar 7 '20 at 11:39
  • @ChrisRogers, from WHO: "From a risk communications perspective, using the name SARS can have unintended consequences in terms of creating unnecessary fear for some populations, especially in Asia which was worst affected by the SARS outbreak in 2003... – Jan Mar 10 '20 at 10:07
  • ...For that reason and others, WHO has begun referring to the virus as “the virus responsible for COVID-19” or “the COVID-19 virus” when communicating with the public. Neither of these designations are intended as replacements for the official name of the virus as agreed by the ICTV." It was probably in my local news that some journalist proposed just the opposite and said that "from now on" (few weeks ago) we should call the virus SARS-Co-V-2 and the diseases COVID-19. – Jan Mar 10 '20 at 11:52

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