Gin makers bottle hand sanitiser for vulnerable as coronavirus spreads

Greenall's Wild Berry pink gin is seen in a photo illustration in London, Britain, September 13, 2019. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

Small gin distilleries across Britain have started producing hand sanitiser to help vulnerable people protect themselves from coronavirus amid a national shortage.

Many stores and pharmacies have run out of sanitiser, with shortages fuelled by panic-buying.

One distillery in the west of England is now handing out 100ml bottles in return for an optional donation to charity.

“We’re giving it away to vulnerable people – it’s our response to stock-piling and price-gouging,” Psychopomp and Circumstance co-director Liam Hirt told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“We don’t want to make any money out of the crisis. We’ve all got vulnerable people in our lives.”

He said the company had raised £1,000 for the Bristol Children’s Hospital in one week.

Artisanal gin companies have proliferated across Britain in recent years as the drink, once dubbed “mother’s ruin”, has enjoyed a huge resurgence in popularity.

The government announced on Wednesday it was fast-tracking applications from companies, including distilleries, to make denatured alcohol for use in sanitisers.

Distilleries can make sanitisers by mixing very pure alcohol with glycerol and hydrogen peroxide, in line with a formula recommended by the World Health Organization.

Another distillery in central England said it was ramping up production of sanitisers to donate to vulnerable people, including the elderly and those with underlying health problems.

“With some very tough times ahead for us all we want to put our talents and resources to good use,” Matt Felgate, owner of the Lincoln Distillery, said on Facebook.

Independent brewer BrewDog also announced it was making a sanitiser called Punk Sanitiser at its distillery in Scotland.

“We want to do all we can to help everyone get through this difficult time,” BrewDog founder James Watt tweeted. “We will not be selling the sanitiser. But giving it away to those who need it.”