To fight coronavirus, distilleries, brewers and monasteries start making hand sanitizer

by Thin Lei Win | @thinink | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Thursday, 26 March 2020 16:30 GMT

A clergyman of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine and students of the theological seminary produce hand sanitizer to donate it to the elderly and people in need to prevent the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at the Vydubychi Monastery in Kiev, Ukraine March 21, 2020. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko

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From gin distillers to monks, these groups are changing gears and making hand gel for people in need

By Thin Lei Win

ROME, March 26 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - From gin distillers to monasteries, businesses are turning their hands to make hand sanitizer for people most in need and for charities to help stem the spread of coronavirus.

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Here are five ways that businesses aiming for social good have changed their operations to produce hand gel as supplies sell out globally:       

  1. Alcohol makers brew up a good cause

Distilleries and brewers around the world are now making hand sanitizers, giving them away directly to vulnerable populations or indirectly by raising funds for charity.

The world's largest distiller Diageo, maker of Johnnie  Walker, Smirnoff and Baileys, also said it would donate up to 2 million litres of alcohol - enough to make 8 million 250ml bottles of sanitizers - to partners globally.

The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States has launched an online portal to help hundreds of distillers who are producing hand sanitizer to distribute to the needy.

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

  1. Beauty companies make up a new formula

French Luxury conglomerate LVMH, home to brands such as Christian Dior, Louis Vuitton and Marc Jacobs, switched its perfume and cosmetics facilities to make hydroalcoholic gel to be given free to public authorities and a university hospital trust in Paris.

On a smaller scale, Pai, an organic skin care company based in West London, developed a formula for hand sanitizer in its laboratories and is giving a tube of its Acton Spirit Hand Sanitizing Gel to local schools, nurseries and charities for every tube bought online.

  1. Universities devise new hand sanitizers

With hand sanitizer a rare sight in the mountainous region of Gilgit-Baltistan in Pakistan, the chemistry department of the University of Baltistan came up with a product using the WHO formula, but with a twist.

The organic sanitizer uses a local herb called tumuru, and is being distributed free to the health department and law enforcement personnel, Shafqat Hussain, head of the department, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Meanwhile in Sweden, chemists at Stockholm University are also making sanitizer, some of it with ethanol donated by the Swedish Museum of Natural History.

  1. Corporations and governments filling the need.

British chemical giant INEOS said in a statement it would build a factory in northeast England in 10 days to produce 1 million bottles per month to supply for free to hospitals. A similar plant would be built in Germany, it said.    

The state of New York, the worst hit by coronavirus so far in the United States, said it would produce up to 100,000 gallons of hand sanitizer per week to distribute free to "most impacted and high risk communities and state agencies". 

  1. Monks lending a helping hand

The black-robed clerics at the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, one of the country's oldest monasteries, are producing hand sanitizers in their 11th-century Vydubychi complex for the poor and needy.

Wearing purple disposable gloves, they fill up hundreds of bottles with clear liquid and send them to destinations all over the country, from Odessa in the south to Mariupol in the east.


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(Reporting by Thin Lei Win; Editing by Belinda Goldsmith. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit

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