The study found that the coronavirus can live on many surfaces, including banknotes, for significantly longer than initially assumed. But this finding was made under highly select laboratory conditions, in the dark and with controlled humidity and temperature that deliberately made no attempt to replicate ‘real-world’ conditions.
While CSIRO made this point, the news was nevertheless sensationalised – perhaps predictably – by the world’s media, which focused on banknotes as opposed to any of the other surfaces examined, such as mobile phone and ATM screens, glass, rails and door handles.
According to Wolfram Seidemann, Chairman of the International Currency Association (ICA), there is nothing wrong with the study per se, but it was carried out with a high load of virus and in the dark (when UV light from daylight is known to be a disinfectant and to kill the virus). And that while the virus was detectable on every surface, ‘detect’ does not translate into ‘likely to spread’ COVID-19.
‘What we can conclude from this’, he said, ‘is that if you sneeze into a banknote and then keep it in the dark, the virus may survive on it for longer’.
‘It is great that each study that comes out teaches us more about how to live with this virus, he added. ‘What is not new, but still not encouraging, is that the way scientific papers and discoveries are covered is often simplistic and misleading’.
His comments were echoed by Mike Lee of ATMIA, who stated that ‘the deliberate use of fear-mongering hyperbole in headlines like ‘Coronavirus May Stay for Weeks on Banknotes and Touchscreens’… does a disservice to the CSIRO scientists trying to better understand how long the virus persists on surfaces. The public needn’t be alarmed by these headlines and should coolly assess all the available facts.’