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Will touching Naira notes increase the risk of Coronavirus?

3 mins read no more than other surfaces; regular handwashing and WHO protocols are still the way to go

Photo Credit: Punch Nigeria 3 mins read

A viral video identifies banknotes as the reason for the increase in coronavirus cases in the country.

While we acknowledge the concerns of the claim-sources and appreciate their efforts to encourage the hand-washing habit, stating that banknotes are the reasons for the spread of the coronavirus is not factual as there is no scientific evidence or credible reportage to support the claim.

Full Text

A viral video circulating on WhatsApp, 29th of April, suggests that banknotes are the reasons behind the spread of the novel coronavirus in Nigeria. The speaker pointed out that despite the measures taken to tame the pandemic, the number of confirmed cases does not cease to rise. He, therefore, relates the rise in infections to Naira notes, from where the virus spreads to handlers of the paper money. 

Similarly, on 30th of April, a message circulating on WhatsApp informs readers about how naira notes put them at risk of contracting the new coronavirus despite obeying the lockdown directives. The Broadcast Message – BC – draws attention to the fact that money travels a lot and establishes the probability of possible contamination as it moves from one hand to another across different locations. Hence, it encourages readers to wash their hands after every contact with a currency.

The President of Nigeria has placed the nation on lockdown for over a month. Although there has been social media and physical rebellion against the move, many Nigerians are still obeying the necessary confinement put in place to prevent a rapid spread of COVID-19. As Nigerians keep safe indoors, should they worry about the naira notes in their possessions?

Banks Notes and the Novel Coronavirus

Speculations abound that physical transactions contribute to the spread of the new coronavirus, which has become a threat to the young and old as it travels around the globe. 

There have been different thoughts about how the virus spreads, one of which is the one that says physical currencies aid its transmission. Consequently, various institutions have suggested solutions. Additionally, countries like China and Korea reportedly sterilised cash to mitigate the spread.

Verification   

While studies have shown that banknotes may transmit disease, there’s no conclusive scientific study that suggests that COVID-19 may be spread through contaminated currency notes.

Additionally, many have raised the possibilities of transmitting COVID-19 through physical currencies and advised the use of contactless technologies for payments. The World Health Organization has however stated that:

“it has not issued any warnings or statements about the use of cash. Instead, it reiterated that you should wash your hands, including after handling money, especially if you’re eating or touching food”

Recall that coronaviruses remain viable on surfaces for hours, even days, depending on the type of surface and that merely touching an infected surface does not guarantee infection. The contaminated hands have to come in contact with the eyes, nose or mouth before one can be infected. Hence, the rationale to always wash and disinfect the hands, and to always try as much as possible not to touch those parts of the body.

Conclusion

While we acknowledge the concerns of the claim-sources and appreciate their efforts to encourage the hand-washing habit, stating that banknotes are the reasons for the spread of the coronavirus is not factual as there is no scientific evidence or credible reportage to support the claim.

Moreover, experts have not established how long the new coronavirus can survive on banknotes, nor informed of its transfer potential. Therefore, merely touching currency notes does not guarantee transmission, especially if one maintains proper hygiene after handling–thorough, hand-washing, and refraining from touching the face.

Lateef Sanni is a graduate of mass communication from Lagos state university. Before joining Dubawa, he belonged to the association of campus journalists where he was trained on the basics of fact-checking, a tool for combating misinformation in Nigeria. He joined the Dubawa team as a researcher and content developer for Dubawa's social media platforms. He consistently works to improve the dissemination of fact-checks through pictures [fact cards] and videos.

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