While consumers around the globe were hoarding toilet paper last month ahead of a wave of government-imposed lockdowns, Russians were stockpiling cash.
About 1 trillion rubles ($13.6 billion) has been issued from cash machines and bank branches since the beginning of March, more than during the whole of last year, central bank data show.
“People were afraid that banks will be unavailable during the quarantine," said Denis Poryvay, an analyst at Raiffeisenbank in Moscow. “They withdrew money for the same reason as people hoarded food."
Daily spikes in withdrawals coincide with President Vladimir Putin’s regular televised briefings outlining measures being taken to fight the coronavirus. There was a jump in money being taken out after Putin announced a tax on bank deposits of over 1 million rubles, and more cash was hoarded after he extended self-isolation measures until at least May.
Demand also surged in mid-March for basic groceries such as buckwheat and canned meat, retailers said.
Russia recorded its largest daily increase in coronavirus infections on Sunday, with new cases rising by more than 6,000 in 24 hours. Putin warned last week that the epidemic has yet to reach its peak in the country.