British people are hoarding items from grocery stores just like in the U.S., but they’re using much less cash to purchase things, and they’re not hoarding cash either, according to a report by Quartz.
Even before the government in the U.K. brought things to a halt over growing coronavirus fears, people in the country were using less cash to get by. Now, it’s even more pronounced, as ATM usage is way down and people are using less physical money as they try and stay away from potential germs.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said people should use contactless methods of payment instead of cash to avoid germs, but a spokesperson said people were misrepresenting the agency about the decision.
“WHO did NOT say banknotes would transmit COVID-19, nor have we issued any warnings or statements about this,” WHO spokeswoman Fadela Chaib said to MarketWatch in an email. “We were asked if we thought banknotes could transmit COVID-19 and we said you should wash your hands after handling money, especially if handling or eating food.”
The agency said people should treat banknotes like any other surfaces and practice good hygiene.
Central banks have also tarnished the image of paper money. The Federal Reserve has quarantined money coming in from Asia, and in China the central bank is using ultraviolet light to disinfect the money.
A couple of analysts in the industry think the shift toward contactless payments could be a lasting one, as countries like Malta, Greece, Ireland, Poland and Turkey have all raised the amount that people can spend using these types of payments. Britain is planning on raising the amount on the first of April.
Trade group UK Finance said that there “is no scientific evidence that there is an increased risk of spreading the coronavirus through the use of cash.”
Some shops have stopped accepting cash altogether over those fears, but switching to contactless payments has the potential of shutting out segments of the population, like the elderly and low-income non banked individuals.