Ireland giving inmates alcohol-free hand sanitizers to fight coronavirus over fears they would make moonshine

Irish officials hoping to stop any spread of coronavirus in the country’s prisons are only giving inmates alcohol-free hand sanitizers out of fear they would use the other kind to make moonshine, a report says.

The move comes as alcohol-based hand sanitizers are already banned in Ireland’s jails following a 2014 incident in which three inmates at Limerick Prison consumed a cocktail of handwash and prescription drugs and were sent to a hospital, where they caused “mayhem” for staff and other patients, according to The Journal newspaper.

However, it runs against recommendations from the World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which argue that alcohol-free hand sanitizers are less effective in combating the spread of germs.

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“Many studies have found that sanitizers with an alcohol concentration between 60–95 percent are more effective at killing germs than those with a lower alcohol concentration or non-alcohol-based hand sanitizers,” the CDC says on its website.

An Irish Prison Service spokesperson told The Journal that prisoners are only being given the alcohol-free kind “for security reasons.”

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“The unique environment of a prison and the sheer numbers and diversity of people who pass through our prisons make vigilance around infection prevention and control absolutely necessary,” the agency added in a statement.

The IPS spokesperson also told The Journal that “99 percent” of cells have access to toilets and handwashing facilities.