But in this crisis, things are different. This time cash itself, passed from hand to hand across neighborhoods, cities, and societies just like the coronavirus, is a source of suspicion rather than reassurance.
No longer a thing to be shoved mindlessly into a pocket, tucked into a worn wallet or thrown casually on a kitchen counter, money’s status has changed during the virus era — perhaps irrevocably. The pandemic has also reawakened debate about the continued viability of what has been the physical lifeblood of global economies: paper money and coins.
From the supermarkets of the United States and Japan to the shantytowns of Africa to the gas stations of Tehran, a growing number of businesses and individuals worldwide have stopped using banknotes in fear that physical currency, handled by tens of thousands of people over their useful life, could be a vector for the spreading coronavirus.
Public officials and health experts have said that the risk of transferring the virus from person to person through the use of money is minimal. That hasn’t stopped businesses from refusing to accept currency, and some countries from urging citizens to stop using banknotes altogether.
In the midst of the coronavirus era, a thousand calculations are made before cash is handled — mostly with gloved hands. Some leave the money laid out on surfaces for days, for the virus to die. Others disinfect banknotes with spray. Some even microwave them in the belief it kills the virus. In China, banks are now required to sterilize cash with ultraviolet light or heat, then store notes for at least a week before they are given to customers.
“In many areas, cash was already beginning to disappear due the increased risk of robbery, the ease of internet ordering, and the ubiquity of cell phones,” says Zachary Cohle, an assistant professor at the department of economics at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut.
“Cash,” Cohle says, “now carries an extra stigma.”
But is ditching cash altogether even feasible?
Sweden, Finland, Norway, Canada, and others have slowly phased out cash to the point where using it in large amounts seems suspicious. The United Kingdom and Australia are among countries expected to become cashless societies. And in China, use of cash by consumers has plunged as smartphone-based payment services rose in popularity over the past decade.
But for much of the rest of the world, letting go of cash is difficult if not impossible.
Continue reading your story on the app
Continue reading your story in the magazine
Health The growing influence of Apple on healthcare
In a 2019 interview with Mad Money’s Jim Cramer, Apple CEO Tim Cook said: “If you zoomed out into the future, and you look back, and you ask the question, ‘What was Apple’s greatest contribution to mankind?’” After a short pause, he answered his own question: “It will be about health.” Two years on, his vision is already becoming a reality for the company.
COLLINS DICTIONARY PICKS NFT AS WORD OF THE YEAR 2021
Collins Dictionary has chosen the term NFT as its word of the year after surging interest in the digital tokens that can sell for millions of dollars brought it into the mainstream.
NEW TWITTER CEO STEPS FROM BEHIND THE SCENES TO HIGH PROFILE
Newly named Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal has emerged from behind the scenes to take over one of Silicon Valley’s highest-profile and politically volatile jobs.
COGNIZANT CEO DISCUSSES FIERCE BATTLE FOR TECHNOLOGY TALENT
Digital services have become more important than ever since the pandemic began in early 2020, and that’s meant big business for major technology companies.
NISSAN INVESTING IN ELECTRIC VEHICLES, BATTERY DEVELOPMENT
Nissan said this week it is investing 2 trillion yen ($17.6 billion) over the next five years and developing a cheaper, more powerful battery to boost its electric vehicle lineup.
MISSISSIPPI UNVEILS MOBILE ID PROGRAM: AN APP FOR PHONES
Mississippi is unveiling a new app that’s designed to store someone’s driver license on their phone.
OUTDOOR DECORATING TRENDS: NATURAL, COZY, SUSTAINABLE
Home, as we know, has become more central to many of us during the pandemic, and that means outdoors as well as in. This holiday season, designers and retailers have suggestions for updating window, door and yard decorations.
OMICRON UNRAVELS TRAVEL INDUSTRY'S PLANS FOR A COMEBACK
Tourism businesses that were just finding their footing after nearly two years of devastation wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic are being rattled again as countries throw up new barriers to travel in an effort to contain the omicron variant.
SPACE JUNK FORCES SPACEWALK DELAY, TOO RISKY FOR ASTRONAUTS
NASA called off a spacewalk Tuesday because of menacing space junk that could puncture an astronaut’s suit or damage the International Space Station.
‘BUY NOW, PAY LATER' CATCHES ON JUST IN TIME FOR HOLIDAYS
As Americans shop for the holidays, they will likely see a swarm of offers to get their gifts now but pay for them later in fixed monthly installments.