Ankara, March 26 : A tradition in Turkey is to offer visitors cologne water to refresh their hands. Now the habit has become an unexpected strategy in te country’s fight against the coronavirus pandemic and also an alternative to expensive and scarce hand sanitizers.
“I always carry a bottle of cologne in my car,” an emergency health worker at Ankara’s May 19 Hospital, told Efe news on the phone.
“Alcohol is a good sanitizer for hands, the most dangerous part of the body because it can spread the virus,” says the doctor.
What is now medical advice was already widely spread in the Eurasian country.
Cologne is offered as a sign of hospitality in homes, restaurants and cafes, and is sold in supermarkets and grocery stores.
The services sector, especially gastronomy, has renewed its use in recent years of offering scented wet wipes
Every meal in an Istanbul restaurant ends, without exception, with the waiter offering one of these cloths to customers.
The towels have previously been immersed in a perfumed solution that usually contains a concentration of 80 percent alcohol.
Since the country first announced is coronavirus case on March 10, queues have formed at shops and chemists to buy cologne at a standard price of around seven euros ($7.5) a litre.
Hand sanitizers, like in many other countries, have vanished from store shelves across Turkey.
According to a study by the Ipsos social research institute on how Turks cope with the pandemic, 88 per cent said they use cologne to fight the virus.
Turkish media and experts have recommended its use to avoid spreading the virus in situations where it is difficult to wash your hands with soap.
The government has even announced it will distribute free cologne water and face masks to over 65s, the most vulnerable social group.
Engin Tuncer, president of Eyup Sabri Tuncer, a company that produces various types of cologne, told NTV radio that the lotion’s sales have increased five-fold and daily shipments are necessary to replenish store stocks.
It is now common to find sold-out signs in supermarkets and pharmacies.
The most popular brands have also exhausted their online sales although they have issued statements to say stocks will be updated soon.
“We do not have masks, gloves, or cologne. These are the phrases that I have repeated the most in the last days,” an Istanbul pharmacist told Efe news.
Given the rapid spread of the COVID-19, the Turkish government has suspended the use of ethanol in other sectors, such as gasoline production, to increase cologne production.
Turkey has so far reported 2,433 confirmed cases with 59 deaths.