The Royal Australian Mint fully supports the advice of experts that proper hygiene is essential when touching any object or surface that could be contaminated. This includes coins and banknotes. The best defence is to avoid touching your face, sanitise the surfaces of any items that you touch, and regularly wash your hands.
The World Health Organization has stated that banknotes and coins have the same chance of transmitting COVID-19 as many other surfaces one encounters during a normal shopping experience, including shopping trolleys, hand rails, lift buttons, keypads, mobile phones and bank cards used to tap and go. Cash poses no greater risk than other forms of payment or many other dry surfaces.
The World Health Organization has rejected reports that it warned COVID-19 could be spread through handling cash. WHO spokeswoman Fadela Chaib said, ‘WHO did NOT say that banknotes would transmit COVID-19, nor have we issued any warnings or statements about this.’
The Royal Australian Mint has received significant comments and requests for help from those who have been denied the use of cash as a means of payment. Based on the feedback, being able to keep using cash during this period is important for many people. To disallow cash as a means of payment could disadvantage or discriminate against people such as those with literacy issues, on low incomes, or without regular access to phone or internet services.
While it is not illegal to refuse the use of cash as payment, in an effort to help reduce the spread of the virus, retailers may unintentionally deny people access to the goods and services they need and place an unnecessary burden on customers.
The Australian Government’s health advice is that everyone can slow the spread of COVID-19 by washing their hands frequently, covering their coughs, putting tissues straight into a bin, avoiding touching their eyes, nose and mouth, cleaning regularly used objects and surfaces and ventilating their home or workspace.