By Denise Paglinawan

TORONTO (Reuters) – Some Canadian distilleries and breweries have started producing hand sanitizers alongside alcoholic drinks as the rapid spread of the novel coronavirus stokes demand for hygiene products.

The move comes after Health Canada this week relaxed rules on the sale of hand sanitizers, disinfectants and protective equipment on a temporary basis to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Despite the potential for high profits, companies including Guelph-based Dixon’s Distilled Spirits has decided to donate hand sanitizers and disinfectants made at the facility to front-line healthcare workers.

“I work in a hospital part-time. I see the demand and I realize that if front-line workers don’t have it, the general public is probably screwed,” Vicky Dixon, co-owner of Dixon’s, told Reuters.

Dixon’s prioritizes donating the sanitizers to healthcare workers but plans to sell smaller bottles to the public to cover the costs of donation. The distiller has donated about 500 litres so far, said Dixon.

Dillon’s Distillers in Beamsville, Ontario, is also distributing the hand sanitizers they make to local police, health workers and long-term care homes for free, according to the company’s social media accounts.

As of Wednesday, it said it had given out 3,000 bottles of sanitizer and nearly all its disinfectant.

In Toronto, Spirit of York Distillery started selling sanitizers on Thursday and said it plans to donate all proceeds to the local food bank.

Gerry Guitor, founder of Spirit of York, said he was “appalled” by news of an individual re-selling sanitizers at a premium. “So we said, ‘Let’s go the other way.'”

U.S. media have reported on a Tennessee man who purchased 18,000 bottles of sanitizer and tried to sell them online for $70 a bottle. Last week, a Vancouver couple made more than C$100,000 ($68,880) reselling hoarded Lysol wipes, the Toronto Star reported.

Spirit of York sells hand sanitizers at C$3 each per small bottle or free for seniors over 65 or those who can’t afford it.

“The small business community is stepping up. I would love to see some of these large organizations step up, maybe forgo profits for a while,” Guitor told Reuters.

($1 = 1.4518 Canadian dollars)

(Reporting by Denise Paglinawan; Editing by Daniel Wallis)