BELIZE CITY, Mon. Mar. 30, 2020– The novel coronavirus that the World Health Organization declared a pandemic has transformed the world economy in few short months, as countries try to contain the spread of the deadly virus that preys on the human respiratory system.
Among the things that are needed to combat the coronavirus is hand sanitization. As the virus continues its spread across the world, countries began experiencing an acute shortage of hand sanitizers.
In Belize, within a few weeks, all the hand sanitizers in the country vanished off the shelves of stores.
One innovative company, Travellers Liquors Ltd., however, has come to the country’s rescue. The company has been able to reconfigure its rum distillery into a production center for the manufacture of a rum-based hand sanitizer.
We asked Magali Gabb, Travelers general manager, how the idea came about to shift production from rum to hand sanitizers.
Gabb said that the idea for the company to make hand sanitizers has been around ever since the H1N1 era, but the idea gained traction from the West Indies Rum and Spirit Association, of which Travellers is the only member from Belize.
“We are the only distiller in the country that belongs to the organization, along with all the CARICOM member countries,” Gabb said, then added, “I think St. Lucia and different countries are doing it. So we got the idea from them.”
Gabb explained that they got the formula from the World Health Organization (WHO).
“So it’s not the regular hand sanitizer with the gel that you would buy in the store. Ours is with rum, glycerine. We added a little bit of citrus oil from CPBL (Citrus Product of Belize Limited) so it doesn’t smell like rum,”Gabb explained.
Gabb said people are already confusing it with rum, “and I don’t want anybody to play with it … it should not be handled by children or any young person. So I want to make that very clear. We are trying to meet a need for the population with this unforeseen virus,” he said.
The product “is not to be consumed at all,” Gabb said.
We asked Gabb if Travellers would still be involved in the making of hand sanitizers in the post-coronavirus world.
“We would still be able to do it after this coronavirus, but it will be in a different packaging, because I don’t want anybody to use it for consumption,” Gabb repeated.
Gabb added, “It was just something that we did quickly, so we are just using the packaging materials that we have right now, because the borders are closed right now and we get all of our packaging materials from outside the country. So I am just working with what I have on hand.”
We asked Gabb how much of this hand sanitizer her company is in a position to manufacture, given the fact that we don’t know when the coronavirus pandemic will end.
Gabb said that they don’t know when the coronavirus will end, so they don’t know how much they would manufacture. But we are going to try to meet the needs of the country. I know that people are calling from all over the country.
Gabb said that the manufacturing of hand sanitizers is a process that takes a while, because they have to first make the rum, then add all the other products. And the WHO guidelines says that it has to sit for 72 hours after it is made, so that the alcohol can be denatured.
Gabb said last week that they were able to manufacture 50 of each of the sizes that they make, that is, the half gallon, the liter and the small personal size.
“We have plastic bottles, but we were told not to use plastic, to use only glass bottles,” Gabb said.
We asked Gabb if she could supply the entire country with hand sanitizers.
I don’t think that we can satisfy the entire country, Gabb told us.