NEW DELHI: Nine people have died in India from drinking alcohol-based hand sanitiser after liquor shops in their town were closed due to virus restrictions, police said on Friday.

The group lost consciousness after consuming a “high quantity” of hand sanitiser mixed with water or soda, Siddharth Kaushal, police superintendent for Kurichedu town in Andhra Pradesh state said.

They were rushed to hospital but declared dead on arrival, he said.

The group turned to hand sanitiser “as a substitute” for liquor after supplies were cut off when authorities ordered a lockdown of the town to combat the coronavirus, he added.

An investigation into the nine deaths has been launched, he said.

Hundreds of poor people die every year in India due to alcohol poisoning, mostly from consuming cheap hooch.

Bootleggers often add methanol — a highly toxic form of alcohol sometimes used as an anti-freeze or fuel — to their home-brew liquor to increase the alcoholic content. The deaths in Kurichedu occurred shortly before India’s coronavirus death toll passed 35,000 on Friday, overtaking that of Italy.

Total infections in the world’s second-most populous country are now 1.63 million, surpassed only by the US and Brazil, both of which have much smaller populations.

Published in Dawn, August 1st, 2020

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