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Distilleries in Aalst and Wichelen in East Flanders have switched from making alcoholic drinks to manufacturing alcohol for pharmacists to prepare their own hand sanitiser.

Commercially available hand sanitiser have not been widely available for some time, after a spate of panic-buying when the coronavirus first made an appearance, and people were instructed to wash their hands often.

Now the De Moor distillery in Aalst and Rubbens in Wichelen have decided to switch production to pure alcohol for medical use. Filliers in Deinze, one of the country’s largest distillers, intends to do the same shortly.

“We realised last week that the coronavirus was going to be no ordinary crisis, and that we could help out with our alcohol,” Hendrick Beck of Rubbens told the VRT.

“The customs service explained how we could manufacture disinfecting alcohol, and we got started right away.”

The alcohol is produced by the same process as when the company makes its jenever, Beck said. “Except you’re not supposed to drink it.”

The company is now producing 10,000 litres of disinfectant alcohol every day, which goes out to hospitals and health organisations like the Red Cross. Doctors and pharmacists also have access for various purposes, including the manufacture of hand sanitiser and the disinfecting of face masks.

De Moor in Aalst followed the example, and after talks with the government, customs and excise and the industry federation, they too moved to production of disinfectant alcohol. Filliers in Deinze is now also in talks with a view to doing the same.

Alan Hope
The Brussels Times

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