A man is assessed by medical staff for novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at the public Victoria Health Unit in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada March 17, 2020. REUTERS/Kevin Light

TORONTO – Some Canadian distilleries and breweries have started producing hand sanitizers alongside alcoholic drinks as the rapid spread of the novel coronavirus stokes demand for hygiene products.

The move comes after Health Canada this week relaxed rules on the sale of hand sanitizers, disinfectants, and protective equipment temporarily to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Despite the potential for high profits, companies including Guelph-based Dixon’s Distilled Spirits have decided to donate hand sanitizers and disinfectants made at the facility to front-line healthcare workers.

“I work in a hospital part-time. I see the demand. I realize that if front-line workers don’t have it, the general public is probably screwed,”

Vicky Dixon, co-owner of Dixon’s, told Reuters.

Dixon’s prioritizes donating the sanitizers to healthcare workers but plans to sell smaller bottles to the public to cover the costs of donation. The distiller has donated about 500 liters so far, said Dixon.

Dillon’s Distillers in Beamsville, Ontario, is also distributing the hand sanitizers they make to local police, health workers, and long-term care homes for free, according to the company’s social media accounts.

As of Wednesday, it had given out 3,000 bottles of sanitizer. It had also given out nearly all its disinfectant.

In Toronto, Spirit of York Distillery started selling sanitizers on Thursday. It said it plans to donate all proceeds to the local food bank.

Gerry Guitor, the founder of Spirit of York, said he was “appalled” by news of an individual reselling sanitizers at a premium. “So we said, ‘Let’s go the other way.'”

U.S. media have reported on a Tennessee man who purchased 18,000 bottles of sanitizer and tried to sell them online for $70 a bottle. Last week, a Vancouver couple made more than C$100,000 ($68,880) reselling hoarded Lysol wipes, the Toronto Star reported.

Spirit of York sells hand sanitizers at C$3 each per small bottle or free for seniors over 65 or those who can’t afford it.

“The small business community is stepping up. I would love to see some of these large organizations step up, maybe forgo profits for a while,”

Guitor told Reuters.

($1 = 1.4518 Canadian dollars)

—Reuters

By Denise Paglinawan