After cities, China quarantines cash to control coronavirus outbreak
China is sanitising large volumes of old currency notes for at least two weeks before redistributing them to contain the spread of the coronavirus (covid-19) outbreak from spreading through possibly infected paper cash.
China’s central bank, the People’s Bank of China (PBOC), has also pumped in billions in new notes in the worst-hit central Chinese province of Hubei for the safety of citizens and bank staff dealing with cash.
The central bank has given the order to “withdraw cash from key areas for epidemic prevention and control, disinfect them with ultraviolet or high temperature, and store them for more than 14 days before putting them in the market,” Fan Yifei, the PBOC deputy government said at a press conference on Saturday.
Money circulated in less riskier areas is also subject to a week of “quarantine” – or stored for a week – before being put back in circulation.
Commercial lenders have been asked to separate cash from hospitals and food markets, he said.
The rules have been put in place under the principles of “Guiding Opinions on Strengthening the Security of Cash Use During Epidemic Prevention and Control”.
Fan said around January 17, the PBOC “…allocated nearly 600 billion yuan of new banknotes ($85 billion) to the country, and hurriedly put 4 billion yuan of new banknotes into Wuhan before the Spring Festival, which improved the sense of security of bank branch staff and people handling cash operations,” Fan said.
“The suspension of inter-provincial cash transfers and intra-provincial transfers in some severely affected areas has minimized personnel movements and reduced the risk of infection and transmission in transit,” Fan was quoted in a Chinese transcript provided by China’s state council information office.
It is helping that China’s electronic payment market is already robust and rapidly expanding.
In 2018, 82.39 percent of Chinese adults used electronic payments, up 5.49 percentage points from the previous year, according to a report on inclusive finance from the People’s Bank of China issued late last year.
In rural areas, the proportion went up 5.64 percentage points to 72.15 percent.
Online payments handled by banking financial institutions totaled 2,126.3 trillion yuan (about 300.9 trillion U.S. dollars), up 2.47 percent year on year, the report showed.
Mobile payments handled by these institutions stood at 277.39 trillion yuan, surging 36.69 percent from the previous year.
Online transactions through non-bank payment service providers jumped 45.23 percent year on year to 208.07 trillion yuan, said the report.
Meanwhile, payments via mobile banking in rural areas rose 34.26 percent to 52.21 trillion yuan, according to the report.
“It should be said that China’s electronic payment is still relatively advanced,” Fan said.
“Recently, there have been some new cases in various places, such as ‘meatless vegetable baskets’. People pay for their orders on their mobile phones, and they can buy fresh and affordable meat, eggs, vegetables and fruits without going out, which has solved a major problem in people’s lives during the epidemic,” the official said.