Fear of contact with other people caused the increase in card payments during the worst moments of the pandemic. Thus, according to data from the Bank of Spain, physical money was not the main means of payment for Spaniards in 2020 for the first time.
However, a study commissioned by the European Central Bank has revealed that banknotes and coins are not transmitters of Sars-Cov-2.
How long does the Covid-19 virus stay on banknotes and coins? Is it possible to get infected through contact with cash? These are the questions that the European Central Bank asked itself and that it has answered through a study carried out in collaboration with the Department of Medical and Molecular Virology at the Ruhr University of Bochum (RUB).
“In realistic conditions, the risk of being infected with Sars-Cov-2 for cash is very low” , is the main conclusion of the work that was published in the journal iScience on July 26, 2021.
How long does the Covid-19 virus stay on banknotes?
To find out how long Sars-Cov-2 lasts on coins and banknotes, the researchers treated various euro coins and banknotes with virus solutions of different concentrations and observed for several days how long infectious viruses could still be detected. A stainless steel surface was used as a comparison.
The results are reassuring: while infectious viruses were still present on the stainless steel surface after seven days, they were completely gone from the 10 cent after six hours and from the 5 cent after one hour.
“The fact that the 5-cent coin goes faster is due to the fact that it is made of copper, in which viruses are known to be less stable,” explains Daniel Todt, one of the virologists who participated in the study.
In addition, it revealed that it took three days for infectious viruses to completely disappear on the 10-euro banknotes and two days on the 1-euro coins.
What is the probability of contagion with the bills and coins
The research team developed a new method to study how the virus would be transmitted from the surface of banknotes and coins to the fingertip.
Thus, they covered banknotes, coins and PVC panels similar to credit cards with harmless corona virus and Sars-Cov-2. These surfaces were then touched while still wet or already dry by test persons with their fingertips or, in the case of Sars-Cov-2, with artificial skin.
Subsequently, cell cultures were inoculated with the viruses adhered to the fingertips to check for transmission. “We have seen that once the liquid has dried, there is practically no transmission of infectious viruses”, summarizes Daniel Todt. “In realistic conditions, infection with Sars-Cov-2 through cash is highly unlikely.”
The main route of infection is by aerosols or droplets
This observation is consistent with the results of other studies, according to which infection occurs in the vast majority of cases through aerosols or droplets. Surface smear infections are almost non-existent.
In addition to the wild-type variant, the current study was also carried out with the alpha variant of Sars-Cov-2. “We assume that other variants also behave similarly to the currently prevalent delta variant,” explains Eike Steinmann, the study’s virologist. The lifespan of the virus variants examined so far does not differ from that of the original virus.