Money must be treated and stored for two weeks before banks can reissue the currency

China is now cracking down on dirty money as it works to contain the coronavirus outbreak.

On Friday, the Chinese government announced in a press release that banks can only release money back into the public after undergoing a disinfectant treatment intended to eliminate the coronavirus.

The initiative specifies that cash withdrawn from hospitals and other high-risk areas be “specially treated and sealed separately.” Treatment may include high temperatures or an ultraviolet light to disinfect the currency, which must then be stored for no less than 14 days before going back on the market.

According to the World Health Organization, it is unknown how long the coronavirus can survive on surfaces, though “preliminary information suggests the virus may survive a few hours or more.”

“Simple disinfectants can kill the virus making it no longer possible to infect people,” says WHO, also noting the importance of thorough hand-washing.

China's currency
Chinese currency
| Credit: Getty

China’s Global Times reported that a branch of China’s central bank in Guangzhou is even destroying used money to avoid taking any chances on helping the epidemic to spread.

A local physician told the outlet that it’s “reasonable” to suspect the coronavirus can survive for days on money: “Cash is just one of many surfaces that people may come in contact with, as the virus can spread by fomites, which can be door handles, keyboards or many other things, including paper.”

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Luzhou, China, Feb. 4
| Credit: Costfoto/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

The coronavirus has killed more than 1,770 people and infected another 70,000 in mainland China, according to CNN. Most deaths occurred in people over 60 with preexisting conditions, and all but two were in mainland China.

Coronavirus is a blanket term for several respiratory illnesses, ranging from the common cold to more severe viruses such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). Symptoms typically include fever, cough, trouble breathing, headache and sore throat.

For people who have severe cases, it can turn into pneumonia, SARS, kidney failure and death, according to the World Health Organization.

Find out how you can help slow the spread of coronavirus here.