On Monday, Ajay Sawhney, top government official from India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) urged countrymen to maximise the use of digital transactions to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
“If you want to be safe, choose to pay digitally", Sawhney said in his message while calling the country’s over 493 million internet users to strictly maintain “social distancing” practices.
#IndiaFightsCorona | In this trying time, let's do our bit to beat #CoronavirusOutbreak. Use #DigitalPayments ONLY to ensure social distancing. Let's defeat #COVID19 together.— Ministry of E & IT (@GoI_MeitY) March 23, 2020
Pay safe. Stay safe.
Here's a message from Shri Ajay Sawhney, @SecretaryMEITY pic.twitter.com/rX8VEUzHxn
The appeal by the top government official comes days after the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) asked people to promote digital payment options like NEFT, IMPS, UPI, and BBPS to limit the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic by avoiding social contact.
"In the context of the efforts to limit the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic by avoiding social contact and visits to public places, the public can use these modes of digital payment from the convenience of their homes through online channels like mobile banking, internet banking, cards, etc. and avoid using cash which may require going to crowded places for sending money or paying bills", a statement issued by the country's banking regulator reads.
Since the coronavirus is a new disease that originated in China towards the end of 2019 global medical researchers are still figuring out the different ways it could spread along with the severity of the illness. At this moment, person-to-person infection via coughing, sneezing, sharing the same public spaces, and touching potentially infected surfaces like currency notes have emerged as known means to spread the virus.
The Indian government has been taking steps to minimise the use of cash transactions in the economy for last three years. The government-owned payment system, UPI, came into effect after Prime Minister Narendra Modi demonetised currency notes of higher denominations in 2016 in a bid to tackle corruption.
However, recent data released by the RBI revealed that $337 billion in currency notes were in circulation at the end of 2019, which was around $60 billion higher than 2016.
At the moment the COVID-19 pandemic has infected over 330,000 people globally and killed over 14,600 patients worldwide, according to real-time statistics platform Worldometer.
India, which has currently suspended most modes of public transport including local, metro, and inter-city trains along with international flights to prevent the further transmission of the virus, has recorded 415 positive cases of the coronavirus along with seven fatalities.