Chinese authorities are literally cleaning the country’s bank notes to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Speaking at a press conference, the country’s central bank said it would disinfect and isolate used currency notes as part of an effort to stop the spread of the deadly outbreak, which has killed more than 1700 people.

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Banks use ultraviolet light or very high temperatures to disinfect yuan bills, then store the cash for up to a fortnight before recirculating them.

Fan Yifei, the deputy governor of China’s central bank, said banks had been urged to provide new banknotes to customers whenever possible.

At the same time, the bank made an “emergency issuance” of $4 billion yuan in new notes to Hubei province, the centre of the outbreak, before the recent lunar new year holiday.

The measures are intended to “secure the public’s safety and health when using cash”, Fan said.

But it’s yet to be seen how wide an impact the disinfection work will have, particularly as mobile payments have taken favour over cash in China in recent years.

The number of people infected with the coronavirus has passed 70,000 today, as international experts began meetings with their Chinese counterparts on how to tackle the epidemic.

The death toll jumped to 1765 in mainland China after 100 more people died in Hubei province.

Worries about its spread remain high and the epidemic’s reach was highlighted by the US announcing that more than three dozen Americans from a cruise ship quarantined off Japan were infected.

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The number of new cases of the COVID-19 strain spiked last week when officials in Hubei changed their criteria for counting cases to include people diagnosed through lung imaging.

On Monday, the number of new cases in the province was around 100 higher than those on Sunday but still sharply down from those reported on Friday and Saturday.

The latest figures came as the head of the World Health Organisation said international experts in a WHO-led joint mission had arrived in Beijing and had had their first meeting with their Chinese counterparts.

“We look forward to this vitally important collaboration contributing to global knowledge about the #COVID19 outbreak,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Twitter.

Mi Feng, National Health Commission spokesman, said on Sunday that slowing case numbers nationally showed that China was controlling the outbreak.

But Mr Tedros has warned it is “impossible to predict which direction this epidemic will take”.

The UN health body has also asked China for more details on how diagnoses are being made.



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