The use of physical money as a medium of exchange is still a necessity in every economy though in varying degrees. Granted that a lot of financial innovations have made it possible for us to transact some businesses online, especially through the use of mobile phones, Point of Sale (POS) machines, and host of others, the developing nature of our economy still makes cash particularly needful in the purchase of several goods and services. Importantly, the implication of this circumstance is that a lot of citizens will likely be exposed to the risk of the coronavirus that is fast ravaging the world now. It is noted that one particular surface that most consumers very much touch or have contact with everyday is cash, giving it a high possibility of being germy.
It is a well-known fact that physical money travels far and wide. It is thus that in economics there is the talk of the “velocity of money”-meaning the rate at which a representative money note changes hands in transactions in a period. This phenomenon may imply that a given Naira note handed out in exchange for a commodity or service in places of high risk of COVID-19 will find its way within the shortest possible time to places of low risk and transmitting the virus! I do not want to sound alarmist, but as according to the NCDC report, about 25 percent of the persons with the virus have neither travel history nor contacts with infected persons. If this is the case, then how did they contract the virus?
One of the likely means by which this can occur is through contact with physical cash received either as payment for goods sold or as change gotten after payment, Individuals can become infected if they touch contaminated cash!
HABRIN therefore calls for aggressive sensitisation of the public on cash handlings, to mitigate the spread of the virus through frequent washing of hands or use of hand sanitiser at every contact with money, our aim is to see greener environmental practices entrenched in the consciousness of all Nigerians and sustained as a way of life.
As part of efforts to contain the coronavirus pandemic, Humanity Africa and Better Life for Rural Communities Initiative – HABRIN, a non-governmental organisation that spearhead’s developmental undertakings with focus on environmental management and capacity building in Nigeria has been actively engaging in environmental sanitation and personal hygiene awareness in the rural communities. While the federal government of Nigeria has adopted several physical measures to mitigate the spread of the virus such as compulsory use of face masks, social distancing and hand washing campaign, while also ordering her citizens to stay at home in a lockdown.
While we reflect on all the measures arising from the possible sources such as human to human contact, door knobs and car knobs through which the virus could be contracted, one area that has been paid little attention is contact with physical cash. In many countries including Europe and America, there have been noticeable worries over cash as a medium of transmitting the coronavirus, with several supermarkets out rightly rejecting it in payment, while others still accept it but implement tight measures to curtail the risk.
Presently, there is hardly any scientific evidence to prove how long the virus may last on cash or bank notes. As regular hand washing or the use of alcohol-based sanitiser is a potent weapon in protecting oneself against the powerful COVID-19 virus, particular care must be taken to wash or sanitise the hands with each contact with cash. Where hand gloves are worn, there must equally be sanitised or washed properly with each exposure before touching other surfaces. The task may be challenging, but given the high situation, it is an unavoidable pill that must be constantly swallowed since cash cannot be avoided in most transactions and in most places.
Thus, there is need to sensitise the people about not narrowing their outlook to just human and surface contacts as possible sources of the COVID-19 infection mainly, but also widening it to other likely means such as physical cash with its network of contacts. This is even more critical now with the easing down on the lockdown declared in Lagos, Ogun and Abuja and subsequently the reopening of other states soon.
Since the best response to the coronavirus is prevention, personal hygiene level must be upped above the normal. It is an abnormal situation we are in and it calls for abnormal response.
The best safety measure against potentially infected money is: Don’t touch your face or eat food after handling money without washing your hands. This entails cultivating the habit of frequent washing of hands thoroughly after coming into contact with any physical cash because your safety lies in your hands.
AbdulRaheem AbdulRahman, CEO, HuHABRIN.