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Coronavirus triggers China to destroy, quarantine cash in outbreak hotspots

BEIJING – A branch of China’s central bank has begun to gather old paper currency from high-risk areas for the coronavirus and destroying the cash to prevent the contagion from spreading.

The Guangzhou branch of the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) ordered the destruction of all paper banknotes from hospitals, fresh food markets, and buses in areas exposed to the COVID-19 outbreak to assure the safety of cash dealings, the South China Morning Post reported.

PBOC Deputy Governor Fan Yifei told reporters at a news conference that potentially contaminated bills from other hotspots, along with the central province of Hubei, the epicenter of the virus, will be quarantined and sterilized before recirculation. Yifei said money from lower-risk areas will be quarantined for a week.

“Money from key virus-hit areas will be sanitized with ultraviolet rays or heated and locked up for at least 14 days before it is distributed again,” Fan said.

The Morning Post reported that between Feb 3. and Feb, 13, the bank removed 7.8 billion yuan ($1.1 billion) from the southern province of Guangdong, while adding about $3 billion yuan ($430,000) back into circulation.

Billions in banknotes are being collected for disinfection or destruction and the PBOC has already distributed 600 billion yuan ($85.6 billion) in fresh currency throughout the country since Jan. 17.

The death toll on the mainland has risen to 1,7770 from the 70,548 cases reported since the outbreak began two months, according to China’s governmental health authority.

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