The Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic has spread from China to 159 countries and 185,000 confirmed cases worldwide. The virus can remain active and infectious on surfaces for up to 10 days according to medical advice. The World Health Organisation denies issuing advice about cash and Coronavirus, but some other public health officials are urging businesses and shoppers to limit cash payments. “WHO did not say banknotes would transmit COVID-19, nor have we issued any warnings or statements about this,” a WHO spokesperson told America’s CNBC overnight. “We do recommend that people wash their hands regularly.” Meanwhile the US Federal Reserve is quarantining US banknotes coming in from Asia and Europe for ten days (up from 5 days) as a “precautionary measure,” against the spread of coronavirus. Banks in China have been ordered to disinfect cash before issuing it to the public. Chinese government officials held a media conference in February to announce that banks would only be allowed to release sterilised new bank notes. Shops reject cash over coronavirus fears NSW grocery chain Harris Farm Markets has reduced the number of registers accepting cash in-store to “lower the risk of transmission between shoppers and cashiers,” reported The New Daily. The CERES Community Environment Park in Melbourne is only accepting cashless payments (unless there is no other option) over virus transmission fears. Sally Kennedy, manager of The Merri Café, told The New Daily that money is dirty. “It is a really sensible move because money is dirty and this is a way of stopping people from touching it.” Can Australia’s cash money transmit Coronavirus? Researchers have not yet worked out whether Australia’s polymer banknotes, unlike paper banknotes from many countries, are resistant to or can carry the virus. Dr Andrew Stewardson, an expert in infectious diseases at Monash University said it is plausible that infected patients could pass on Coronavirus through handling cash and using it to buy things. “If someone with COVID-19 coughed into their hand and did not perform hand hygiene before taking a banknote from their wallet and then passing it to a second person who touched their mouth or rubbed their eyes,” said Doctor Stewardson. “It would be reasonable to move from cash to card where feasible without disruption,” said Dr Stewardson. “For situations where cash is unavoidable, routine hygiene measures will substantially reduce any potential risk.” Handling cash in the age of Coronavirus An Australian Department of Health spokesperson said people who handle cash or engage in hand to hand transactions with other people should use alcohol based hand sanitisers and avoid contact touching their face. “Contactless payments address the theoretical risk of transmission,” the spokesperson told The New Daily. The spokesperson said everyone “should also avoid touching their eyes, mouth, or nose when handling cash.” What fees does Apple Pay, Android Pay, PayWave, Tap and Go and Eftpos charge? Paying with a card or by tapping your mobile phone is a popular and convenient way to shop and make small (and large) transactions. 76 per cent of Australians do not know how what fees they are charged each year on their bank account and most underestimate the bank fee slug. Since 2017, banks have slashed ATM fees and now most ATM transactions in Australia are fee-free, making cash a more favourable option for people who hate fees. Most shops and merchants absorb the fees the banks charge them for accepting card and contactless payments. Some shops and retailers ask for a ‘merchant surcharge’ to cover the costs of accepting card payments. For Visa and Mastercard credit cards, this can be up to around 1.63 per cent.American Express cards – up to around 2.0 per cent.Visa and Mastercard debit cards – around 0.63 per cent.Eftpos cards – about 20 cents per transaction. Should cash be banned to stop coronavirus? The use of cash payments is declining in Australia, compared with card payments and the government is considering a ban on cash business transactions over $10,000. This cash ban is to crack down on money laundering, tax avoidance and criminal cash transactions. Economist Angela Jackson from Equity Economics said Australia’s reliance on electronic payments is increasing but businesses must consider the impact on less digitally-savvy consumers before banning cash. “Many Australians do not have access to digital banking or are uncomfortable using such services, Angela Jackson told New Daily. “We need to allow all people the ability to buy the goods and services they need at their local businesses. Businesses should be ENCOURAGING the use of contactless card payments, rather than outright banning cash said Angela Jackson. Coronavirus update (18 March): Countries with the most coronavirus infections are: China: 82,007 coronavirus cases Italy: 27980 coronavirus cases Spain: 11178 coronavirus cases South Korea: 8320 coronavirus cases France: 6573 coronavirus cases Germany: 6012 coronavirus cases Iran: 16169 coronavirus cases USA: 3536 coronavirus cases Switzerland: 2650 coronavirus cases UK: 1954 coronavirus cases. Australia has 375 confirmed cases of coronavirus on 18 March 2020. Keep up to date with coronavirus and its impact on the economy and interest rates at InfoChoice. Keep up to date with the latest trending financial news at InfoChoice. InfoChoice compares financial products from 145 banks, credit unions and other financial institutions in Australia. InfoChoice does not compare every product in the market. 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