As retail outlets run out of stock of masks and hand sanitisers following increased demand as new cases of the Wuhan novel coronavirus (2019 nCoV) are confirmed in Singapore, Temasek Holdings CEO Ho Ching shared on Thursday (30 January) some alternative options.
If people can’t get a hold of hand sanitizers, Mdm Ho suggested on her Facebook page that they could use mouthwash or antiseptic mouthwash, rubbing alcohol or, if they’re desperate, Maotai or Vodka.
Mdm Ho said: “If we can’t get hand sanitisers, we can improvise with most mouthwash or antiseptic mouth wash esp those that contain chlorhexidine (these typically have pink colours), rubbing alcohol, or if we desperate, we can use a strong alcohol such as brandy, maotai or vodka!”
She also encouraged using baby lotion or moisturiser after to prevent hands from getting too dry, noting that symptoms of excessive dryness include peeling skin or redness.
She added, “There are also antiseptic wet tissues – if these have become too dry, just pour some mouthwash or brandy.”
Mdm Ho added as an afternote that the 2019 nCoV is like severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in that they are both enveloped viruses. The envelope can be destroyed by sunlight, heat, alcohol or mild disinfectants, she said.
“At least 40% alcohol will do,” said Mdm Ho.
Netizens call out the ‘high class hand sanitiser’
On Mothership’s Facebook page, netizens called out Mdm Ho for her suggestion, pointing out that the average Singaporeans don’t earn millions like her and wouldn’t be able to afford such an expensive alternative to hand sanitizers.
A bottle of Vodka (375ml) in Singapore costs over S$30 while Maotai—an expensive spirit commonly drunk in China—costs upwards of S$50 per bottle, with some going for thousands of dollars.
One person compared using maotai or vodka as hand sanitizers to asking people to gargle with sharkfin soup, pointing out his incredulity over Mdm Ho’s suggestion.
Two people suggested that Mdm Ho or the government could sponsor these expensive alternatives to those who can’t afford it, while another person suggested that the government could suspend taxes on alcohol for the sake of public interest.
Several others also pointed out the flaw in Mdm Ho’s assertion that a 40% alcohol would be sufficient in killing viruses. One person pointed out that the standard concentration of alcohol used for cleaning in laboratories is 70%.
Another person shared a link to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website which states that sanitizers with 60 to 95 percent alcohol concentration are most effective in killing bacteria.