As part of the COVID-19 outbreak, central banks have resorted to quarantining physical bills and some are even going so far as to burn banknotes. South Korea’s central bank, the Bank of Korea, has implemented a quarantine policy for physical notes that come in from local banks. They’ll keep banknotes in a safe for up to two weeks, given “that the [SARS-CoV-2, which causes the COVID-19 disease] virus usually dies in nine days.”
As early as February 15th, Chinese lenders were asked by the government to both disinfect bills and keep them in a safe for up to 14 days, depending on what region they came from.
This is why, among other reasons, the CDC is so rigorous about handwashing as a way to reduce infections in general. Well-maintained hand-washing reduces respiratory diseases, such as colds, in the general population by 16-21% according to the CDC.
In a time where contactless digital payments may become the recommended norm, cryptocurrency adherents have a rare opening to advance their argument that cash might become obsolete. Yet, they will win the battle and lose the war if central bank digital currencies represent the bulk of viable options for the vast majority of people.