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Cash is Strong in a Crisis – the Role of ATMs in the Coronavirus Pandemic

Currently, the coronavirus pandemic is nowhere near peaking and many economies, markets and societies around the world are starting to buckle under the strain of this spreading health crisis and the drastic measures taken to stop it in its tracks.

Meanwhile, the people surrounding the cash industry continue to work hard to ensure that citizens have access to funds during this critical time. ATMs and cash have always served an important function during other crises and emergencies in the world.

We want you to know that we are taking every precaution possible to ensure that cash will continue to be available and to be safe to use. Skilled and experienced operators know the importance of sanitizing the machines regularly and using bank-supplied currency.

We’ve seen the spread of misinformation in the vacuum created by a lack of definitive scientific knowledge about how this deadly new virus behaves and how it can finally be contained. Some reports and agencies are using pseudo-science to spread a negative message about not using cash during the epidemic. Let’s get one thing clear – cash is no more “dirty” than most surfaces in our daily lives, from door knobs to touchscreens, from handrails in trains and buses to tables in restaurants and pubs. Any physical object has surfaces which can potentially become contaminated by germs or even a virus. Even the International Space Station (ISS) has a problem with germs and bacteria on its surfaces and that’s in outer space in a void far above earth!

Professor Ben Cowling, Head of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the School of Public Health at Hong Kong University confirmed in a BBC broadcast on 18th March that the predominant means of transmission for the virus is prolonged, close person-to-person contact with an infected person. Prolonged, close contact, in other words, is required for most infections to occur, as opposed to just fleeting contact.

We continue to believe that it is as safe to use cash today as it has been for centuries.

In the aftermath of the financial crisis, which began in 2008-2009 and brought about what’s now called the Great Recession, there was a huge global rebound in the use of cash. That’s because cash is public money and it’s free to use and it is humanity’s most trusted and popular payment mechanism. Did anyone report in sick from handling so much cash during this period? In addition, cash has a store of value so it reassures people in a crisis to have real money in hand. Do some anti-cash zealots want to remove this source of comfort from billions of people during the coronavirus pandemic?

ATMs can continue to operate even during the lockdowns and closures of businesses, schools and branches as social isolation policies are implemented. When banks in New Jersey started to announce branch closures, for example, they pledged to continue operating ATMs and drive-thru locations.

As we saw in the Great Recession, cash is strong in a crisis. In addition, 24 x7 ATMs (a) can be relied upon in an emergency (b) are a vital part of infrastructure in troubled times, as well as normal times, and (c) provide you with a resource that’s as essential to your welfare as food, medicine and shelter.

Finally, keeping an adequate cash reserve at home is prudent for all households now, not hoarding as such, but enough cash to cover your necessities.

And, as we all know from history, cash always works.

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