COVID-19 Accelerates Shift Toward Digital Payments

Currency can serve as a vehicle for transmitting pathogens – much like a mosquito. Studies have found that the human influenza virus, for example, can remain alive and infectious on banknotes for 17 days. It would not be unreasonable to assume that physical currency has played a role in spreading COVID-19 as well. 

Many countries will be weighing the option of disinfecting, destroying, and reprinting currency. Whatever they decide, one outcome already seems certain: the coronavirus will accelerate an ongoing shift among younger populations toward digital payments, particularly in Asia.  

This trend is already strong. As of the end of 2018, around 73 percent of internet users in China used online payments services, up from 18 percent in 2008. 

Young populations tend to be more open to adopting new technologies, and China and Southeast Asian countries have significantly younger populations than Europe and the United States.

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