Wednesday , January 20, 2021

ATMIA Deplores ‘Fearmongering’ in Press Coverage of Covid Risk at ATMs

With ATM transaction volumes in bank branches returning to near pre-Covid-19 levels, the ATM Industry Association Tuesday issued a statement decrying media coverage regarding the risk of infection from ATM use.

The issue centers on a study by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and the Australian Centre for Disease Preparedness about how long the Covid-19 virus can survive on a variety of surfaces. In its release Tuesday, ATMIA charged that at least some press reports about the study could create unfounded concern over the use of ATMs during the pandemic. 

The study, which was published in a report in Virology Journal, examines survival times for the virus on a variety of surfaces, including glass, stainless steel, vinyl, cotton, and paper and polymer banknotes. The surfaces were incubated at 20 degrees Celsius, 30 degrees Celsius, and 40 degrees Celsius respectively, and the study showed that survival times plummeted at higher temperatures. Twenty degrees Celsius is 68 degrees Fahrenheit.

“The deliberate use of fear-mongering hyperbole in headlines like ‘Coronavirus May Stay for Weeks on Banknotes and Touchscreens’ … does a disservice to the CSIRO scientists trying to better understand how long the virus persists on surfaces,” Mike Lee, chief executive of ATMIA, president of the ATM Security Association, and chairperson of the Consortium for Next Gen ATMs, said in a prepared statement. “The public needn’t be alarmed by these headlines and should coolly assess all the available facts.” 

Tente: While ATM usage is down slightly overall from a year ago, the size of withdrawals has increased.

ATMIA counters that the research was literally carried out in the dark, because virus samples were not subject to any light, and were kept on the surfaces in a highly controlled laboratory setting, called a high-containment laboratory, with fixed temperatures and humidity levels. 

“The authors openly admitted that SARS-CoV-2 has been shown to be rapidly inactivated under simulated sunlight!,” Lee said in his statement. “This virus can’t survive sufficient exposure to light and higher temperatures. UV light is its enemy, as is heat and sanitizers.”

As more bank branches reopen, ATM volume is at these locations is returning to near normal, says David Tente, executive director, USA, Canada and the Americas for ATMIA.

“Where volume remains off is independently operated ATMs in locations such as bars and restaurants,” says Tente. “A lot of these locations still have not reopened and those that are open have limited traffic.”

Tente adds that while ATM usage is down slightly overall from a year ago, the size of withdrawals has increased, which indicates that cash usage is returning to pre-Covid-19 levels. 

Tente also points to the ATMIA’s global ATM Hygiene Protocol and its online hygiene showroom to showcase available products, services, and industry best practices for any decontamination required on high-touch surfaces. These resources, he says, stand as examples of how the ATMIA is working to educate ATM deployers about ways to prevent the spread of the coronavirus via ATM usage.

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