Nevertheless, WHO and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advise people to frequently wash hands with soap and water or an alcohol based sanitizer as a measure against Covid-19.
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“The sanitizer shortage has been there for 10-15 days,” said Tushar Kurne of the Maharashtra State Chemists & Druggists Association (MSCDA). “Well-known brands are no longer available at most retail outlets in the city. There is an element of panic buying among people due to coronavirus fear. There is growing awareness about the usefulness of a sanitizer even among schoolchildren.”
A call to National Chemists, opposite KEM Hospital, Parel, revealed that only bottles of 75ml and a few of 100ml were available. “We don’t have stocks of Dettol, Lifebuoy or Himalaya brands anymore,” said a dispensing chemist at the outlet. The Wellness Chain of pharmacies too didn’t have sanitizers of the market leaders. “The brands we have in stock too are good,” said an official from one of the chain’s outlets in Thane.
But a chemist from Dahisar “begged to differ” on the “shortage theory”. “Sanitizers are not products that we stock in bulk. A shopkeeper mostly keeps three of each brand but in recent weeks, given the coronavirus fear, people have bought a shop’s complete stock. There is no shortage, just that people are stocking it up,” he said.
A senior doctor from a public hospital felt that the “shortage” was the results of “hoarding” at various levels.
Kurne said that in the initial days of the coronavirus infection sweeping through China, many companies exported huge sanitizer supplies from India.
Despite attempts, officials of Reckitt Benckiser, which manufactures Dettol Instant Hand Sanitizer, declined to comment. An HUL spokesperson told TOI, “We have adequate stocks of hand sanitizers and hand-wash soaps in India. We are encouraging consumers to wash hands with soap and use sanitizers at key times during the day,” he said.
Doctors, meanwhile, pointed out that a sanitizer can never replace soap and water completely (see box). “A sanitizer is a handy and effective way to break the coronavirus transmission chain,” said infectious diseases specialist Dr Om Srivastava from Jaslok Hospital, Pedder Road.