A recent study by an Australian laboratory (1) caused an alarm among cash apologists, especially in the ATM industry.

The laboratory (it is important to emphasize laboratory!) study of the COVID-19 virus on banknotes found it can last up to 28 (!!!) days!

This data caused a very strong resonance and served as a serious argument against the use of cash in businesses and a negative attitude towards contact payments in general (POS keyboards, touch monitors, etc.).

Another study, which also caused a violent resonance, was associated with the identification of high contamination with viral material in most places visited by people infected with COVID-19. According to Chris Mason, a professor at Weill Cornell Medicine, in such places “there’s viral RNA everywhere” (1).

These two studies would seem to serve as strong evidence of the urgent need to disinfect everyone and everything, and as often, as possible, otherwise everyone who touches these contaminated surfaces will inevitably catch an infection!

But … there is one peculiarity that should not be overlooked. The presence of viral material on different surfaces and the possibility of its survival and especially reproduction in laboratory conditions does not evidence that this poses a high risk of infection in real conditions! Here I would like to quote the article (1):

In a study published in September in Clinical Microbiology and Infection, researchers in Israel tried to piece it all together. 

They conducted lab studies, leaving samples out for days on various surfaces, and found they could culture the remaining virus in tissue. In other words, it remained infectious. Then they gathered samples from highly contaminated environments: Covid-19 isolation wards at a hospital, and at a hotel used for people in quarantine. The virus was abundant. But when they tried to culture those real-world samples, none were infectious. Later that month, researchers at an Italian hospital reported similar conclusions in The Lancet.”

Let’s now return to reality and try to trace what conditions of survival for the virus on banknotes and coins exist in real life.

Let’s trace the path that cash goes from, say, a customer’s wallet in a supermarket to the moment it gets to another user from an ATM!

First, those few banknotes in A wallet most likely were there not a few minutes, but several days! Moreover, not in the most favorable conditions for survival, and very far from laboratory conditions: not in constant temperature and humidity, in complete darkness, and most likely, they went through many environmental changes!

After the banknotes exchanged and settled at the supermarket checkout, for example, they are counted several times (at least 2-3 times) is not the best conditions, most likely using various electro-mechanical devices, in conditions constantly changing temperature, humidity, illumination, and most likely, in contact with surfaces that have been treated with disinfectant substances more than once! Similar circumstances happen in a CIT company! There is data that shows, cash is counted 8 to 14 times before it is loaded to ATM cassette!

In an ATM, these viruses on the banknotes can wait from several hours to several days, before they will be withdrawn by the client.

(1) https://www.wired.com/story/its-time-to-talk-about-covid-19-and-surfaces-again/