China is disinfecting and isolating used banknotes to stop the spread of the new corona virus, which has killed more than 1,500 people.
Banks use ultraviolet light or high temperatures to disinfect yuan bills, and then seal and store the money for seven to 14 days, depending on the severity of the outbreak in a particular region, before circulating it, the Chinese central bank said a press conference.
The virus, which infected over 66,000 people in China and spread to more than two dozen other countries, has triggered a rush to disinfect public places and minimize human contact.
Disinfectants and surgical masks were sold out in pharmacies across the country within a few days of announcing a blockade in Wuhan City in late January that was suspected to have caused COVID-19 disease.
In office buildings, handkerchiefs were installed in lifts that tenants should use when they pressed buttons, while the hail company Didi warned drivers to disinfect their cars every day.
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Fan Yifei, deputy governor of the Chinese central bank, said Saturday that banks were asked to provide customers with new banknotes whenever possible.
The central bank made an "emergency spending" of four billion yuan in new banknotes to Hubei Province, the epicenter of the outbreak, before the final New Year holiday, Fan added.
The measures are designed to "ensure the safety and health of the public when using cash," Fan said.
However, it is unclear what impact the central bank's disinfection work will have. In recent years, more and more Chinese have preferred mobile payments over cash.
In 2017, nearly three-quarters of Chinese respondents to an Ipsos survey said they could survive an entire month without consuming more than 100 yuan in cash.
According to the World Health Organization, in addition to droplets and direct contact with infected patients, COVID-19 can also be spread through contaminated objects.
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and published from a syndicated feed.)