The WHO has clarified that they aren't warning people against using paper money due to coronavirus

13 March 2020
What was claimed

The World Health Organisation (WHO) have advised people to use contactless payments instead of cash to reduce the risk of Covid-19 transmission.

Our verdict

The WHO advises the public to wash their hands after handling money, especially if handling or eating food. But they haven’t issued a warning about using banknotes.

“Banknotes may be spreading the new coronavirus so people should try to use contactless payments instead, the World Health Organization has said”

The Telegraph, 2 March 2020

“World Health Organization has advised public against using paper money”

The Daily Mail, 8 March 2020

An article in the Telegraph claims that the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said that the Covid-19 coronavirus may be spreading via banknotes, and that the WHO had warned people to wash their hands after using banknotes.

Citing this article, other news outlets have made similar claims. But other outlets have also quoted the WHO as denying the story.

The Telegraph article quotes a WHO spokesperson as saying, in reply to a question about whether banknotes could be spreading the new coronavirus: “Yes it’s possible and it’s a good question. We know that money changes hands frequently and can pick up all sorts of bacteria and viruses ... when possible it’s a good idea to use contactless payments”.

We don’t doubt that the Telegraph’s report is an accurate account of the conversation, but the WHO have since clarified to Full Fact that this did not amount to an official warning about banknotes.

Their current official advice, received in an email to Full Fact, is below.

“Prevention starts with 10 basic things you can do:

  1. Clean your hands regularly with an alcohol-based hand rub, or wash them with soap and water;
  2. Clean surfaces regularly with disinfectant – for example kitchen benches and work desks;
  3. Educate yourself about COVID-19. Make sure your information comes from reliable sources;
  4. Avoid traveling if you have a fever or cough, and if you become sick while on a flight, inform the crew immediately. Once you get home, make contact with a health professional and tell them about where you have been;
  5. Cough or sneeze into your sleeve, or use a tissue. Dispose of the tissue immediately into a closed rubbish bin, and then clean your hands;
  6. take extra precautions to avoid crowded areas if you are over 60 years old, or if you have an underlying condition;
  7. If you feel unwell, stay at home and call your doctor or local health professional;
  8. If you are sick, stay at home, and eat and sleep separately from your family, use different utensils and cutlery to eat;
  9. If you develop shortness of breath, call your doctor and seek care immediately;
  10. It’s normal and understandable to feel anxious, especially if you live in a country or community that has been affected.

Find out what you can do in your community. Discuss how to stay safe with your workplace, school or place of worship.”

We have also written about what to do to avoid infection by Covid-19 here. The latest NHS guidance can be found here.

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