Russians Withdrew a Year's Worth of Cash in a Month Over Coronavirus Fears

Russians have been withdrawing vast amounts of cash after President Putin announced new coronavirus measures.

Apr 20, 2020 at 10:16 a.m. UTC
Updated Sep 14, 2021 at 8:30 a.m. UTC

Russians aren't so interested in panic buying toilet paper amid the coronavirus pandemic – instead they are stocking up on cash.

One trillion rubles ($13.6 billion) were issued from ATMs and banks through March – more than for all of 2019, according to a report by BNN Bloomberg.

“People were afraid that banks will be unavailable during the quarantine,” Denis Poryvay, an analyst at Raiffeisenbank in Moscow, told the news source. “They withdrew money for the same reason as people hoarded food.”

The large uptick in daily withdrawals closely matched the timing of President Vladimir Putin's regular televised briefings that detailed the measures being taken to tackle the global pandemic from within the country.

A large surge in withdrawals was seen after Putin announced a tax on bank deposits of over one million rubles, with further cash hoarding apparent after the president extended self-isolation measures.

In the United States, too, cash withdrawals have seen a major spike amid the crisis. As reported in late March, U.S. currency in circulation saw its largest percentage increase since the panic around the "Y2K bug," according to data from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.

According to the Moscow Times, the coronavirus is continuing to spread in Russia. The latest figures suggest there are 47,121 cases reported in in the country to date, with 405 deaths.

While research has found that bank bills can spread viruses and bacteria, many people are still preferring to hoard cash. Some commentators argue that the pandemic highlights the case for moving away from physical money to digital equivalents.

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