S.Korea's central bank burns, quarantines cash in coronavirus precaution

SEOUL, March 6 (Reuters) - South Korea’s central bank said on Friday it was quarantining bank notes for two weeks to remove any traces of coronavirus and even burning some as part of efforts to stem the outbreak.

The Bank of Korea (BOK) said it is also putting currency notes through a high-heat “laundering” process, as it always has, before releasing them for circulation.

“For all cash coming to the central bank from local banks, the Bank of Korea will keep it in a safe for two weeks, given that the virus usually dies out after nine days,” a BOK official told Reuters.

By early Friday, South Korea had confirmed 196 new cases infected by the coronavirus and a total of 6,284, leading almost 100 countries to impose restrictions on South Korean travellers.

Routine procedures for incinerating dirty notes collected from all parts of the country have also been tightened in order to combat the outbreak in the country with the largest number of coronavirus cases outside of China, the official said, asking not to be named because he was not authorised to speak to the media.

The routine process for handling cash in South Korea involves heating notes to 150 degrees Celsius for two to three seconds, then keeping them at 42 degrees after packaging, which effectively disinfects the cash, the bank said.

Earlier, a Chinese media report said its government has told lenders to disinfect and store banknotes in a dry place for seven days as part of the battle against the virus. (Reporting by Hayoung Choi; Editing by Alex Richardson)