Cash in the age of the Covid-19

A 2008 study found that the influenza virus on a paper bill can survive for days if it is combined with a body fluid like saliva. Another study published this year showed that the Covid-19 virus, which survives a day on cardboard, can live up to three days on plastic or stainless steel. There was also a study in 2011 that found that virus or bacteria survive longer on flat, smooth plastic surfaces than on material like fabric or paper that have bigger microscopic holes on them. According to a report from the Bank for International Settlements, the Bank of England, Germany’s Bundesbank and the Bank of Canada have advised people that the possibility of infection through paper bills is very low—a message not to fear handling cash. #Easy payments moving to “contactless” payment Then, one can ask if it reasonable to say that not using cash can reduce the risk of infection? Unlikely. In fact, a lot of payment methods entail direct human contact. This includes signing, inputting passwords and exchanging credit cards. And most payment methods use a plastic tool which may be even more dangerous than paper from that perspective. Therefore, it’s not just cash we should stay away from. Making use of contactless payment methods may reduce the possibility of viral infection altogether. Samsung Pay is one example. The number of users of the mobile payment app has been rapidly increasing since 2015, and the trend is expected to continue for some time. To establish a contactless payment method that does not require inputting passwords, accurate identification of the buyer is a must to prevent theft. #Looming dangers There are people that could be vulnerable once the cashless society emerges: the aged and people without a bank account. The older generation often finds it difficult to understand digital technology let alone smart devices. So do people without bank accounts. According to media reports, millions of Americans couldn’t receive the financial support granted by the U.S. government, because they did not have account information. This is a clear example of how people without bank accounts will be discriminated against in a cashless society. Another point of concern is privacy. If only contactless payment methods are left in the end, there will be zero privacy left in payment data. U.S. supermarket chain Target sparked controversy in 2016 when it sent a coupon for baby goods to a pregnant teenager based on sales records. Her parents were not aware of the pregnancy. Target is able to determine details about customers with high accuracy by analyzing their purchase patterns. #Digital currency that everyone can use with no worries Covid-19 is pushing change at a rate wouldn’t have been possible without the outbreak. Images of the central bank digital currency (CBDC) developed in China was recently leaked. There were recently reports that the Bank of Korea is preparing for a pilot test of its own CBDC. The contactless society driven by the pandemic is redefining every aspect of our daily lives, and it’s raising a lot of questions to be answered: Will we ever see a digital currency free of privacy concerns and safe for everyone to use? Will bitcoin offer a better alternative to existing payment methods? Lee Dae-seung, ophthalmologist, advisory professor at Hanyang University’s Industry Advisory Board and COO at OWDIN Network

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