Fearing dirty money might transmit the novel coronavirus, some Indians have begun ironing their banknotes and dipping their coins in alcohol.
In Bhuleshwar, a local fruit-vegetable market, airport-style security checks have become the new normal at the entrance to the local bazaar. A woman wearing a mask and gloves solemnly takes bills, places them under a hot iron, and gives them back to shoppers and shopkeepers. Next to her, a man checks the temperature of everyone entering. News reports are full of people claiming they contracted the virus by handling cash at exchange booths and grocery stands or as payment for their work. These people are not taking any chances.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that infected objects and surfaces, including cash, are not a primary mode of transmission; person-to-person contact is by far the greater concern. The World Health Organization said it had not recommended giving up cash, but did urge contactless payments where possible. Alas, that is not an option at many Indian small stores, bakeries and bazaars.
There is no scientific evidence the coronavirus can be transmitted through physical money. Money, just like any other object that is changing hands, could potentially be a source of infection. In some shops and bakeries, customers are asked to place their coins into little bowls containing an alcohol solution. Some shoppers place the banknotes in separate bags and keep them quarantined at home before reusing them. Prevention is better than cure, right?