China quarantines cash in coronavirus-hit areas to prevent spread of deadly disease

K J M Varma

Beijing, Feb 15 (PTI) Stepping up efforts to contain the outbreak of the novel coronavirus in the country, China has begun to quarantine large quantity of bank notes in the affected areas and temporarily store some of it in warehouses to ensure that the disease does not spread through cash, a Chinese official said on Saturday.

Fourteen-day quarantine has become a norm among people people showing symptoms of COVID-19 in China and many parts of the world since the virus started spreading.

Experts have been asking people to frequently wash hands and face besides wearing masks as basic measure to prevent its spread.

The death toll in the epidemic climbed to 1,523 with 143 new fatalities reported mostly from the worst-affected Hubei province, while the confirmed cases jumped to over 66,000, Chinese health officials said on Saturday.

Fan Yifei, vice-governor of the People's Bank of China, said money supply in the country would be ensured, with four billion yuan (USD 572 million) in new bank notes already allocated to Hubei province, the epicentre of the virus, before the Spring Festival holiday.

Fan said the central bank would temporarily store bank notes from major government institutes or state enterprises in warehouses to prevent the disease spreading through the handling of cash.

Banks have also been told to sanitise notes before giving them to enterprises, Fan said.

Fan said cash from hospitals and wet markets were being stored and bank notes and coins sanitised with UV light before they were released back into circulation, Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported on Saturday.

The movement of banknotes between major government institutions and enterprises has also been suspended in epidemic-hit areas in a bid to prevent the spread of the disease.

Fan said the central bank has paid great attention to prevent the spread of the disease through the circulation of cash and would also encourage people to use online banking services, e-shopping and online utility payments.

Fan said the bank was also ensuring stable operation of the financial system in China. Clearing companies and financial institutes were cutting handling fees for donations to charitable organisations, he said.

The epidemic would not cause large-scale inflation in China as the government was managing cash flow and the supply of commodities, Fan said.

Liang Tao, vice-chairman of China’s Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission, said the banking system has also set aside 537 billion yuan (76.8 billion USD) to provide credit support for local enterprises and government institutions to fight the epidemic. Banks had also been told to postpone business loan repayments, the Post report said. PTI KJV RS RS