As the world continues to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, OECS rum distillers have modified their production lines to play their part, producing alcohol and hand sanitiser and making donations of sanitation products. Across the Eastern Caribbean, contributions have been made to governments, institutions and frontline healthcare workers and to support local communities impacted by the virus.
Some of the initial actions taken by OECS producers, all members of the West Indies Rum & Spirits Producers Association (WIRSPA) to support COVID response in their various countries include:
Antigua Distillery in Antigua & Barbuda has made 70% alcohol readily available to produce hand sanitiser and disinfectant. The company has further made donations to Emergency and Essential Workers in Antigua and Barbuda to include Health & Medical Personnel, EMS, the Police & National Guard, Her Majesty’s Prison, and other persons on the front line. In addition, the company has supported the Government’s social initiative to provide care packages to the most affected in the society by providing the aforementioned sanitising products and bottled water to those in need. Antigua Distillery is also producing the gel type hand sanitiser utilizing local aloe and intends to export to neighboring countries.
Belfast Estate in Dominica, shifted from rum production for human consumption, as a result of the ban on sale of alcohol and produced a 70% alcohol sanitizer which assisted to alleviate an island wide shortage of alcohol and sanitizers for the citizens of Dominica. This was made available mainly to supermarkets, offices and homes caring for the elderly. The production of this sanitizer will become part of their product portfolio.
Demerara Distillers St Kitts & Nevis has diversified its production to include rubbing and sanitizing alcohol (70%). The product was able to fulfill where shortages existed and was also used to support the sanitization activities of the Hospitals (JNF and Alexandra), children’s, elderly and nursing homes, rehabilitation centres and the National Emergency Operations Centre to which donations were made.
Grenada Distillers produced sanitising solution which was made available to all supermarkets and pharmacies island wide, with free distribution to various senior citizens’ and children’s homes. In addition, in collaboration with the Government of Grenada, sanitiser was donated to the public transport /bus association, traffic department, prison and other law enforcement entities. Hand sanitisers were also provided for all GDL employees.
St. Vincent Distillers produced Mt. Bentick’s Hand Sanitiser, a disinfectant solution developed using the WHO’s guidelines to meet the demand for desperately needed hand sanitiser in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Donations were made to the country’s first responders, health care workers, police station, clinics and hospitals as well as the airport.
Westerhall Estate in Grenada shifted from rum to production of hand sanitiser. The sanitising solution, was donated to prisons, medical facilities, police stations and assisted living homes. The 69% proof alcohol-based sanitiser will become a permanent fixture on the product line.
St. Lucia Distillers has produced a 70% ABV rubbing alcohol sanitiser which helped alleviate an island wide shortage of sanitiser for citizens. Shipments of bulk and retail sizes were donated to schools, the police and fire departments and to homes for the elderly, to help keep the most vulnerable on island safe. Supported by its parent company GBH, St Lucia Distillers has also contributed 100,000 medical face masks to the Ministry of health for the benefit of front-line health works.’
Margaret Monplaisir, head of St. Lucia Distilleries and member of the WIRSPA Executive Committee said, “in this period, we just pulled out all stops to ensure the islands had the supplies necessary to battle COVID. Even with a drastic drop in sales because of lock-downs, we saw it was our duty, as part of this community, to come out and to keep operating to produce these much-needed supplies.”
She further added, “with all the stress from being at home and job insecurity, it is important to mind what and how you drink. If you drink, do so in moderation and stay away from home-made alcohol or any products that may have been tampered with.”