New Delhi: While the novel coronavirus has claimed over 14,000 lives and infected more than 3.3 lakh people across the globe, a lot is unknown about the virus. For instance, it is still not known whether the virus can be transmitted through currency notes and newspapers.
Earlier this month the World Health Organization (WHO) had suggested that dirty banknotes may be spreading coronavirus, suggesting that people switch to digital payments instead. However, no strict advisory has been issued advising people to stop using currency notes altogether.
The Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) also urged Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman to order “a larger investigation” to assess the chances of diseases spreading via currency notes in the beginning of March.
Currently, there is limited research on the subject but existing scientific literature indicates that coronavirus can last on paper surfaces for upto four to five days.
Virus can persist on paper for 4-5 days
In a research paper published in the Journal of Hospital Infection last month, scientists from Germany reviewed 22 studies to understand how long various strains of coronavirus including Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) coronavirus and COVID-19 can persist on different surfaces.
The study revealed that at room temperature, novel coronavirus can persist for up to four to five days on paper.
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The researchers, further, noted that the virus can survive on metal surfaces for up to five days and up to nine days on plastic surfaces. However, unlike paper, these surfaces can be sanitised with liquid disinfectants.
Dr Alok Lodh of multi-speciality clinics HCL Healthcare told ThePrint that paper products like newspapers and currency notes, which change many hands, can bring the virus to our homes.
T. Jacob John, professor of virology at Christian Medical College, Vellore, also agreed that paper products have a risk of spreading the disease.
However, he added, that amongst all the scenarios through which the virus can spread, transmission through newspapers is the least probable.
“If a newspaper delivery boy has the infection, and decides to sneeze on a paper, then yes, the virus could get transmitted to your home,” said John.
“However, this is very unlikely. I have myself not stopped newspaper subscriptions,” he added.
John also said that while there is no antidote to the virus, the spread of the pathogen can be curbed by simply washing hands with soaps after handling the morning newspaper or currency notes.
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