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Coronavirus: Hungary’s Central Bank Quarantines and Cleans Banknotes

Péter Cseresnyés 2020.03.11.

Since dirty banknotes can contribute to the spread of the coronavirus, just like precautionary measures already in place in certain Asian countries, Hungary’s National Bank (MNB)  has started quarantining and cleaning Hungarian forint bills.

China and South Korea have already introduced these safety measures as they have been placing cash notes under quarantine and disinfecting them by a special procedure to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Interestingly, most European countries including Italy have not yet introduced the method.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), “It is not certain how long the virus that causes COVID-19 survives on surfaces, but it seems to behave like other coronaviruses.”

However, in a summary of coronavirus studies prior to the outbreak of the current epidemic,  German scientists found that although some coronavirus strains die within a few hours on aluminium surfaces, on other surfaces, such as certain plastics, they can survive for up to nine days. On paper, the pathogens can remain present for 4-5 days.

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That’s why MNB has started using safety measures. In their response to Hungarian tabloid Ripost, the central bank wrote that billions worth of banknotes in closed containers each day are being taken out of circulation or „set aside” for two weeks in line with the survival period of the virus.

The banknotes deemed appropriate are then bundled, packaged in shrink wrap and then sent through a 160-170 degree Celsius tunnel.

“Thanks to these measures and the advanced technologies in use, there is minimal risk of the banknotes reentering cash circulation to be infected,” MNB writes.

For those handling banknotes, most experts advise contactless transactions (via phone or contactless card) as a safe alternative, but washing our hands after paying with dirty money is also a must, especially these days.

Featured photo by Zoltán Máthé/MTI