Quarantined returnees drinking sanitisers Dr Gibson Mhlanga

Paidamoyo Chipunza Senior Health Reporter
Some returnees in quarantine facilities are taking serious risks by drinking liquid sanitisers as a way of mitigating boredom associated with overstaying in compulsory quarantine.

Sanitisers have a high percentage of alcohol, and in most countries including Zimbabwe this is ethanol, the same alcohol used in liquor.

However, it also contains hydrogen peroxide and glycerine, both of which are safe in the low concentrations for external use but can be poisonous if drunk. The ethanol content is higher than in any bottled drink, which can lead to severe risks.

Posting on his Twitter handle, one of the returnees in a quarantine facility in Bulawayo alleged that some were even hoping to “kill the virus”.

On Saturday, Covid Prisoner shared on his page how some young men were high on the sanitisers before reporting that one of them had been taken ill after showing signs of intoxication.

“Today I came across a few young men high on hand sanitisers. One was quite honest. I want to kill coronavirus on my throat, in case I test positive,” he posted.

Later that same day, Covid Prisoner further alleged that one of the young man had been taken ill.

“The young man in the ambulance imbibed hand sanitiser, ostensibly to kill coronavirus.”

Covid Prisoner further alleged that he had seen another young man intoxicated and holding a hand sanitiser.

“I was chatting with social workers when a young man passed by very sober, appeared a few minutes later, barely able to maintain his balance, with an almost empty bottle of alcohol-based hand sanitiser. The rest is history. I applaud the social worker for being responsive though.”

Although, no official report had been made to the Ministry of Health and Child Care on this practice in quarantine facilities, acting Secretary Dr Gibson Mhlanga warned against the high alcohol content saying it could have negative effects on the human body.

He said while it was not clear whether the alleged returnees were separating the alcohol from the liquid and taking it as 100 percent alcohol or were ingesting it as is, both were still detrimental to health.

“Excessive alcohol intake is dangerous to health. It is tantamount to alcohol poisoning, which can damage some vital organs such as the liver.

“One can actually get into prolonged unconsciousness (coma) with a possibility of failing to recover,” said Dr Mhlanga.

According to some  returnees, these practices were pressed on them by the prolonged stay in quarantine facilities with some staying for as much as 40 days instead of the maximum 21 days.

However, the Government has since announced that all challenges that were leading to prolonged stay of returnees had been resolved and everyone supposed to go home would soon be released.

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