The risk of infection through the transfer of cash, coins and banknotes from hand to hand is very low, according to a study conducted by experts from the European Central Bank (ECB) and the Department of Medicine and Molecular Virology at the German Ruhr University in Bochum.
The question of how long the virus can stay on money and how long it can be transmitted through it has occupied experts and non-specialists alike since the beginning of the pandemic. A new study has developed a method that answers the question of how many infectious viral particles can be transferred from the surface of cash to the skin under real conditions.
Researchers applied a solution of different concentrations of coronavirus to various coins and banknotes, and then observed how many days SARS-CoV-2 virus was found on money using a stainless steel surface as a comparison control.
Overall, the results are encouraging. It was found that while the infectious coronavirus is still present on stainless steel after seven days, it disappeared completely in a banknote of, for example, ten euros after three days. As far as coins are concerned, the virus is no longer detectable (hence not contagious) after six days on a 10 cent coin, two days later on a 1 euro coin, and just one hour later on a nickel coin. The rapid disappearance of the virus from the last sample is due to the fact that it is made of copper, a metal known to be less viable for viruses on it.
Although the virus can persist for several days, especially on banknotes, it is believed that a person can rarely become infected this way, since a high viral load is required, which is usually not the case with cash. Lead researcher Daniel Todd said that “in the real world, getting the coronavirus through cash is very unlikely.”
This is consistent with the findings of other studies, according to which, in the vast majority of cases, Covid-19 infection occurs aerogenically (airborne droplets). Despite initial concerns, superficial infections are virtually non-existent (contamination through objects).
Although the study looked at the alpha variant of the coronavirus (“British”), the researchers estimate that the “Delta” (“Indian”) variant behaves in a similar way with respect to money.