4 May 2020

Canberra distillery supplying crucial hand sanitiser to local community services during COVID-19

| Karyn Starmer
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Ben Osborne, left, and Tonya Moss, right, standing apart holding hand sanitiser.

Unicorn Spirits CEO Ben Osborne delivers hand sanitiser to Tonya Moss from Woden Community Service. Photo: Supplied.

A local distillery has come to the rescue of Canberra’s community workers by switching production of shimmering gin and vodka liqueurs to hand sanitiser.

Almost all of the available personal protective equipment (PPE) in Australia is currently being directed towards frontline workers in the health sector during the current COVID-19 crisis. This has left many community workers vulnerable as they visit vulnerable people in their homes without the necessary PPE to protect themselves, their clients and the community at large.

Canberra’s Unicorn Spirits has now halted production of its liqueurs to focus exclusively on the production of hand sanitiser. Other local distilleries are taking similar action. Effective hand sanitisers have an ethanol content of at least 60 per cent, and with the current surge in demand, distilleries are playing a crucial role in producing them for medical staff and the community.

Woden Community Service (WCS) is among the many community organisations affected by the shortage of hand sanitiser. The service has more than 40 staff working directly with people in their homes.

WCS CEO Jenny Kitchin said staff were excited and relieved when Unicorn Spirits advised they were able to supply the organisation with 35 litres of hand sanitiser.

“We are so grateful for Unicorn Spirits’ help,” said Ms Kitchin. “Our frontline workers are carrying out essential services for some of the most vulnerable people in our community. We need to make sure they are provided with the personal protective equipment to keep themselves and our clients safe.

“Unfortunately, like everywhere, we are really struggling to get access to hand sanitiser and face masks that are required in some of the work we do. Unicorn Spirits’ generous supply of hand sanitiser has made an enormous difference to us.”

Unicorn Spirits CEO Ben Osborne said due to the cancellation of the Sydney Royal Easter Show, which coincided with the halt of all the company’s major markets for the foreseeable future, it was left with a significant amount of stock and nowhere but its website to sell its products. A young entrepreneur, Osborne also runs Canberra’s winery and spirit tour company, Local Spirit.

“After our first 1000 litres of ethanol went into production of sanitiser for Canberra hospitals, with help from Underground Spirits, we have now been able to concentrate on the wider community,” said Mr Osborne. “With more than 10,000 enquiries for sanitiser, we have had a hard time allocating limited stock. But we are trying to make sure it gets to those who need it most.”

Bottle of Unicorn Spirits ethanol hand sanitiser.

A bottle of ethanol hand sanitiser produced by Unicorn Spirits. Photo: Supplied.

Unicorn Spirits is assisting community services such as WCS, Communities@Work and Beryl Women Inc, and is now directly supplying the Canberra Relief Network.

“We are producing our hand sanitiser using a World Health Organization approved recipe to a medical grade standard, under strict Therapeutic Goods Administration guidelines,” explained Mr Osborne. “So far, what would have been more than 23,000 bottles of our Unicorn Elixir has, and will be, converted into lifesaving hand sanitiser.”

While many aged care clients have had to put their support needs on hold due to the health risks, WCS still has 10 aged care workers visiting people every day, assisting the elderly at home with personal care such as showering, domestic cleaning and shopping support. WCS also employs a number of drivers who are providing essential transport to elderly people, such as to medical appointments.

An additional 30 WCS disability support workers are out in the community every day supporting more than 150 people with physical and mental health disabilities. Ms Kitchin says many of these vulnerable members of the community have no family or other means of support.

“Without WCS workers, some of these people would require much higher levels of support, placing even greater strain on the health care sector,” she said. “We can’t thank Unicorn Spirits enough for helping us all to stay healthy and safe during this time of crisis.”

More information on Woden Community Service

Unicorn Spirits is now supplying the same 80% ethanol medical grade hand sanitiser provided to local hospitals to the general public. Delivery within two days is available in the ACT, NSW and Victoria. For more information, including bulk inquiries for larger businesses and organisations visit Unicorn Spirits.

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