Pakistan to ‘quarantine,’ disinfect banknotes collected from hospitals

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Updated 26 March 2020

Pakistan to ‘quarantine,’ disinfect banknotes collected from hospitals

  • Directive comes as national virus cases exceeded 900 on Tuesday
  • Central bank will supply new bills as disinfection procedures are put in place

KARACHI: Pakistan’s central bank has ordered commercial banks to quarantine paper money received from health facilities, as banknotes may be spreading the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) announced on Monday.

The directive comes amid an increase in the number of infections recorded in Pakistan, where the tally exceeded 900 on Tuesday.

“Instructions have been provided by the SBP to clean, disinfect, seal and quarantine all cash being collected from hospitals and clinics and to block the circulation of such cash in the market,” the central bank said in a statement following a video meeting of commercial bank presidents with SBP governor Dr. Reza Baqir.

Banks are required to send daily reports on cash collection from health facilities for the SBP to be able to supply sufficient amounts of notes, while the collected money will be subject to a 15-day quarantine.

As disinfection procedures have yet to be in place, for the time being the SBP will be supplying banks with new bills.

“The cash that banks would receive from hospitals would be quarantined and disinfected. We are considering ways to disinfect such notes and that would be done through medically approved procedures. For now, we are trying to provide new notes,” SBP spokesman Abid Qamar told Arab News on Tuesday.

As banknotes can carry bacteria or viruses from persons who have touched them, hand washing is necessary after handling money. In Pakistan, however, it is a common habit for people to lick their fingers while counting bills.

“This way of cash counting is very dangerous,” Dr. Qaiser Sajjad, secretary general of Pakistan Medical Association, told Arab News. “It is advised that if people count banknotes, they should immediately sanitize their hands.”

The central bank’s decision may reduce some of the dangers posed by the handling of money. Shopkeepers say the move is timely in light of the current outbreak.

“Though we are exercising caution while handling cash, it still remains a danger because we don’t know which note could be infected,” said Ahmed Hussain, a grocery seller.

Although the central bank has been encouraging electronic payments, cash remains dominant in Pakistan.

“We deal with dozens of people every day,” bread seller Wali Muhammad said. “We know we are in danger, but we can’t afford machines (for non-cash payment).”


Bernie Sanders drops 2020 bid, leaving Biden as likely nominee

Updated 22 min 10 sec ago

Bernie Sanders drops 2020 bid, leaving Biden as likely nominee

  • The Vermont senator’s announcement makes Biden the presumptive Democratic nominee to challenge President Donald Trump in November
  • Sanders plans to talk to his supporters later Wednesday

WASHINGTON: Sen. Bernie Sanders, who saw his once strong lead in the Democratic primary evaporate as the party’s establishment lined swiftly up behind rival Joe Biden, ended his presidential bid on Wednesday, an acknowledgment that the former vice president is too far ahead for him to have any reasonable hope of catching up.
The Vermont senator’s announcement makes Biden the presumptive Democratic nominee to challenge President Donald Trump in November.
Sanders plans to talk to his supporters later Wednesday.
Sanders initially exceeded sky-high expectations about his ability to recreate the magic of his 2016 presidential bid, and even overcame a heart attack last October on the campaign trail. But he found himself unable to convert unwavering support from progressives into a viable path to the nomination amid “electability” fears fueled by questions about whether his democratic socialist ideology would be palatable to general election voters.
The 78-year-old senator began his latest White House bid facing questions about whether he could win back the supporters who chose him four years ago as an insurgent alternative to the party establishment’s choice, Hillary Clinton. Despite winning 22 states in 2016, there were no guarantees he’d be a major presidential contender this cycle, especially as the race’s oldest candidate.
Sanders, though, used strong polling and solid fundraising — collected almost entirely from small donations made online — to more than quiet early doubters. Like the first time, he attracted widespread support from young voters and was able to make new inroads within the Hispanic community, even as his appeal with African Americans remained small.
Sanders amassed the most votes in Iowa and New Hampshire, which opened primary voting, and cruised to an easy victory in Nevada — seemingly leaving him well positioned to sprint to the Democratic nomination while a deeply crowded and divided field of alternatives sunk around him.
But a crucial endorsement of Biden by influential South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn, and a subsequent, larger-than-expected victory in South Carolina, propelled the former vice president into Super Tuesday, when he won 10 of 14 states.
In a matter of days, his top former Democratic rivals lined up and announced their endorsement of Biden. The former vice president’s campaign had appeared on the brink of collapse after New Hampshire but found new life as the rest of the party’s more moderate establishment coalesced around him as an alternative to Sanders.
Things only got worse the following week when Sanders lost Michigan, where he had campaigned hard and upset Clinton in 2016. He was also beaten in Missouri, Mississippi and Idaho the same night and the results were so decisive that Sanders headed to Vermont without speaking to the media.
Sanders had scheduled a rally in Ohio but canceled it amid fears about the spread of coronavirus — and the outbreak kept him home as his campaign appeared unsure of its next move. The senator addressed reporters the following day, but also sounded like a candidate who already knew he’d been beaten.
“While our campaign has won the ideological debate, we are losing the debate over electability,” Sanders said then.