Bitcoin Depot, the largest Bitcoin ATM operator in the world, has begun powering down some of its machines in an effort to halt further spread of COVID-19.
As much of the world sits in quarantine, Bitcoin Depot has chosen to temporarily shut off crypto ATMs which specifically reside in high traffic areas. The company is undertaking this push as a way to encourage social distancing.
“As we monitor the ongoing situation, the number of locations temporarily taken offline will likely increase,” Bitcoin Depot’s director of product, Alona Lubovnaya, told Cointelegraph in an email, adding:
“We are continuing to monitor for locations that inhibit our users from socially distancing themselves from others. We estimate 10% of our machines will be in temporary lockdown until the end of April, or until further notice.”
Bitcoin Depot reportedly touts more than 600 Bitcoin ATMs, also called BTMs, in a network which spans 25 U.S. states.
Crypto ATMs on the rise
In recent years, crypto ATM numbers have flourished globally. These machines allow customers to trade their fiat dollars for cryptocurrency at physical machines across the globe.
At the beginning of March 2019, the world boasted 7,014 BTMs. As of press time, that number has grown to 7,384 machines, CoinATMRadar data indicates.
“Our goal is to contribute to the safety and health of our users by maintaining strong protocols with regard to the cleanliness of our machines,” Bitcoin Depot CEO Brandon Mintz said, in light of the global coronavirus pandemic.
“In this case, that means powering down certain BTMs in order to prevent the spread of the current pandemic. We hope other Bitcoin ATM operators will follow our lead and do everything in their power to keep customers safe.”
Digital assets organically encourage social distancing
By nature, cryptocurrencies do not require a social presence. Users can send value directly from one person or entity to the next, without ever meeting them.
Bitcoin ATMs serve a purpose, in that they allow users to buy into and cash out of Blockchain assets. This helps expand digital payment access to the underbanked, many of whom are otherwise unable to transact online. It can also enable payment at establishments that do not accept virtual currency.
Bitcoin ATMs can also lead to close contact between users, however, when they are placed in high traffic social venues, such as malls. Screens and other touchpoints can also facilitate the spread of viral illnesses if they are not kept clean.
Bitcoin Depot has delegated a specific team for locking machines during the coronavirus pandemic. “We also have our best field technicians working tirelessly to disinfect and clean our affected BTM’s,” Lubovnaya added.
Recently, the U.S. President extended the emergency shut down of all non-essential businesses from April 12 until the end of the month.