The Dubai Health Authority and Dubai Municipality have urged customers to avoid using banknotes and to instead use credit/debit cards for payments. Image Credit: GN Archives

Dubai: How often should you clean your ‘dirty’ money?

Amid the ongoing pandemic, the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) and Dubai Municipality have recommended customers to avoid using banknotes when shopping and to instead, use credit or debit cards as an alternative form of payment.

As part of the authority’s guidelines to prevent the spread of coronavirus COVID-19, UAE banks were earlier instructed to replenish ATM machines with new banknotes. The regulator also directed financial institutions to undertake preventive measures, such as sanitising cash machines regularly and providing disposable latex gloves for all customers to use every time they withdrew money or carried out transactions.

But since the bank notes at ATMs were replaced last March, some UAE residents expressed concern over the cleanliness of bank notes and what precautionary measures should be taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

In response to the recent apprehension shown by residents, the UAE Central Bank assured that bank notes should be sanitised and disinfected just like any other surface.

“The same precautionary measures as other surfaces should be applied to bank notes, such as cleaning it with antiseptics, or washing your hands after each use,” said the UAE Central Bank.

It also encouraged customers to use electronic forms of banking, which in turn reduces the need to use banknotes, visit banks and ATMs.

Coronavirus survives 10 to 100x higher on stainless steel surfaces

The UAE Central Bank’s confirmation on the safety of bank notes was made less than one week after the European Central Bank (ECB) said that tests carried out in collaboration with European laboratories showed the use of bank notes did not pose as a high risk for infection.

On the ECB’s website, executive board member Fabio Panetta said that the survival rate of coronaviruses is "10 to 100 higher" on a stainless steel surface, such as a door handle, than on euro banknotes in the first few hours after contamination.

“Other analyses indicate that it is much more difficult for a virus to be transferred from porous surfaces such as cotton banknotes than from smooth surfaces like plastic," said Panetta.

"Euro notes are printed on pure cotton-fibre paper, which helps make them resistant to wear and tear. Overall, banknotes do not represent a particularly significant risk of infection compared with other kinds of surface that people come into contact with in daily life," he added.

Disinfection of money

money jar
A money jar Image Credit: GN Archives
  • To minimise the spread of germs, wear gloves at all times while shopping.
  • Always try to use your credit or debit card when making payments.
  • If card machines are not available, then use bank notes with caution.
  • Keep returned change in a safe place.
  • Upon arriving home, sanitise bank notes and coins with a disinfectant spray.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds with soap.