The Slatest

China Says It’s Now Quarantining Old Cash to Combat Spread of Coronavirus

A photo illustration of two hands holding a wad of Chinese 100 yuan notes.
This photo illustration taken on February 9, 2017 shows Chinese 100 yuan notes in Beijing.
FRED DUFOUR/Getty Images

In its fight to halt the spread of coronavirus, the Chinese government announced it’s now quarantining cash to prevent people from handling it and potentially spreading the virus. It’s still not totally clear how the coronavirus is spread or how long it can exist on surfaces, so the Chinese government is aiming to take old bills and coins out of circulation to stop one potential method of transmission. The central bank announced Saturday it had put a halt to the transfer of old bank notes across provinces and will use a variety of methods to sanitize the bills, including locking up the cash in government warehouses. The government said it is simultaneously injecting billions of dollars in new cash into the Chinese economy.

The deputy governor of the People’s Bank of China said Saturday the government is introducing 600 billion yuan ($85.9 billion) of new cash with four billion yuan ($572 million) in new notes already allocated in the virus’ epicenter in Hubei Province. “Money from key virus-hit areas will be sanitized with ultraviolet rays or heated and locked up for at least 14 days, before it is distributed again,” the deputy governor said at a press conference. Commercial lenders have also been ordered to identify cash taken specifically from hospitals and wet food markets, places with high exposure risk. The South China Morning Post reports the central bank in the southern city of Guangzhou is going one step further and will destroy all notes collected from these sensitive sites.

“China reported 2,009 new cases of coronavirus and 142 associated deaths in the previous 24 hours on Sunday, days after the government changed the criteria for how it tracks cases,” the New York Times reports. “In all, more than 68,500 people have been infected and at least 1,669 have died worldwide, officials have said. The vast majority of cases, and all but a few of the deaths, have been in mainland China, with the heaviest concentration in Hubei Province, the center of the outbreak.”