Coronavirus: Hand sanitiser sales up by 255% in supermarkets

Supermarket sales of hand sanitiser rose by 255 per cent in February amidfears over the coronavirus outbreak.

A report by Kantar Worldpanel also found that sales of other kinds of liquid soap rose by seven per cent last month, while household cleaners increased 10 per cent as consumers tried to protect themselves against the disease.

The report showed overall supermarket sales grew by 0.7 per cent in the 12 weeks to February 23 - the fastest rate since last November.

Fraser McKevitt, head of retail and consumer insight at Kantar, said: "Given the media focus around the outbreak of Covid-19 in February, it's unsurprising to see shoppers prudently protecting themselves from illness."

Photos posted on social media appear to mirror the uptick in hand sanitiser sales as stocks in shops were completely depleted.

A major public information campaign will be launched, setting out how the public can help to limit the spread of the virus, including washing hands regularly with soap and water.

Advice for Public Health England (PHE) urges people to wash their hands to the time it takes you to sing happy birthday twice.

Marc Donovan, chief pharamacist at Boots, said: "If there's no facilities for hand washing then anti-viral foams and hand sanitisers do have a role to play, but they don't take the place of appropriate handwashing."

It comes as Boris Johnson will set out the Government’s plan to tackle the spread of coronavirus, as he insisted ministers were “ready to take necessary steps” to contain the disease.

The Prime Minister said it is “highly likely” that the virus will spread more widely in the coming days and weeks, and sought to reassure the public that “every possible preparation” is being made.

He will launch the plan on Tuesday at a Downing Street press conference, alongside the chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty and chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance.

Measures are expected to include a “war room” being set up in the Cabinet Office to bring together communications experts and scientists from across Government, and the NHS to roll out a public information campaign.

Boris Johnson visited a PHE lab on Sunday. Credit: PA

Unnecessary travel may be discouraged and working from home encouraged if the virus spreads, as part of a “social distancing” strategy to delay the peak of the outbreak until later in the year when the weather is warmer.

Retired doctors and nurses could be asked to return to work, and emergency indemnity coverage could be provided for healthcare workers.

Whitehall departments will have a designated ministerial virus lead to oversee the response to the global threat of the virus – such as on schools or businesses.