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Echuca to make hand sanitiser to cope with coronavirus demand

By Ivy Jensen

ECHUCA-MOAMA businesses have joined forces to produce hand sanitiser to help cope with the unprecedented demand in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

With none on retail shelves across the twin towns, Echuca Gin Distillery, Morrisons Winery and Coburn and Reid Pharmacy are pooling their resources to make the alcohol-based product.

Coburn and Reid Pharmacy owner Steve Reid came up with the idea after the situation became dire.

“I have been a pharmacist for 14 years and the fear and panic is unlike anything I've ever seen,” he said.

“I'm used to being resourceful but I've exhausted every avenue and opportunity and you can't get hand sanitiser anywhere.

“How are health professionals expected to do their job when they've got nothing? They're going into a gun fight without any bullets.”

Mr Reid contacted Gin Distillery owner David De Vries, who was immediately on board to distill the alcohol.

“Effective hand sanitisers have an ethanol content of at least 60 per cent, so my distillery allows me to concentrate it,” Mr De Vries said.

However, with a shortage of alcohol, he is calling on businesses to provide them with sugar sources.

Moama Bowling Club recently donated a pallet of sugar which will first have to be fermented at Morrisons Winery in Moama.

“We can only extract the alcohol from liquid,” Mr De Vries said.

“The winery has a brewery so they can ferment it, which takes between three to 10 days, and that turns it into about 15 per cent alcohol and then we can distill the liquid.

“We need to get heaps of sugar to make as much as we can so we're calling all food suppliers to supply us with sugar or raw materials, such as fruit.

“No-one understands the gravity of this situation and everyone needs to pitch in where they can.”

Mr De Vries said he was able to produce about 30 litres of hand sanitiser a day.

The sanitiser will be free for health professionals, such as doctors, pharmacists, dentists and optometrists, while individuals can pre-order it at Coburn and Reid for a nominal cost.

“This isn't about making money and price gouging,” Mr Reid said.

“We're doing this because it's a public health issue and we're doing our bit."

As a side note, Mr Reid said washing your hands was much better than using hand sanitiser but it wasn't always practical.