Puerto Rican, Venezuelan rum distilleries join hands to fight against COVID-19
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Caracas/San Juan: Two rum distilleries in Puerto Rico and one in Venezuela have decided to reallocate a significant portion of the alcohol to manufacture disinfectant gel and antiseptics, as well as to bottling it as high-proof alcohol for sanitary use.

The production of rum has now given way to the production of alcohol for disinfectant use at Puerto Rico's world-renowned Bacardi and Serralles distilleries and at the prestigious Santa Teresa distillery in Venezuela, Efe news said in a report on Monday.

Bacardi and Serralles have joined hands to produce and distribute ethyl alcohol to hospitals, hospices and geriatric centres to enable users to disinfect surfaces that may have become contaminated with the coronavirus.

In addition, the firms were using the chemical to make disinfectant gel as a substitute for hand-washing with soap and water to minimize the transmission of the virus.

To kill or neutralize the coronavirus, antiseptics must have at least a 70 per cent concentration of alcohol, chemical engineer and vice president of Bacardi''s supply and manufacturing chain in Latin America and the Caribbean, Jose Class said, adding that the companies currently are not concerned with competing with each other and are seeking only to move in the same direction together.

Meanwhile, the president and CEO of the Serralles Distillery, Philippe Brechot, who promoted the idea three weeks ago, said he was proud to have been able to help support the effort.

"It''s not a question of competition, and when help is needed, you have to help," Brechot told Efe news.

This week, the firm began producing antiseptic alcohol to alleviate the scarcity of disinfectant amid the growing demand in a country where not everyone even has access to potable water.

In less than 10 days, distillery workers revamped the production and bottling assembly lines, created special labeling and got the necessary health and financial permission in "record time", Andres Chumaceiro, one of Santa Teresa's managers, told Efe news.

In Puerto Rico as per one of the executive orders issued by Governor Wanda Vazquez, which seeks to limit gatherings of people but allow the operation of companies producing essential services to control the spread of the virus, Bacardi reduced its production staff from 150 people to about 20.

Santa Teresa has also been affected by the "national social quarantine" declared by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on March 17 and, although the alcohol production lines have not been halted, just 8 percent of the payroll is still on the job.

With shrunken staffs, the rum companies were working hard to get alcohol and its derivatives to every corner of their respective territories.

Hospitals, health centers and other sanitary facilities in various communities, along with pharmacy chains are just some of the beneficiaries of the solidarity among the rum distilleries.

Puerto Rico has reported over 600 cases and two deaths, while Venezuela has registered 129 infections and tree fatalities.

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