Poland uses contraband spirits to drown virus

By: AFP      Published: 11:43 PM, 20 Mar, 2020
Poland uses contraband spirits to drown virus
A traveller walks at the arrivals hall at Warsaw Chopin airport as nationals arrive from abroad with additional flights organised by Polish government and Polish Airlines LOT on March 19, 2020.–AFP

Poland on Friday said it would use a stockpile of nearly half a million litres of confiscated contraband pure alcohol as disinfectant to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

Like other EU members, Poland has introduced sweeping measures to combat the disease, including closing borders to foreigners and asking people to work from home.

But like other members of the bloc, it is also low on basic medical equipment, like masks and disinfectant.

Working with tax authorities, the state prosecutor’s office said Friday it would be “urgently providing state institutions with ethyl alcohol secured during the course of criminal proceedings.

“The estimated amount is at least 430,000 litres (113,600 gallons),” it added, in a statement.

Instead of being destroyed, several thousand litres have already been handed over for use to disinfect public buildings and transport.

Firefighters in Olzstyn, northeast Poland, received 1,000 litres of pure alcohol, while three hospitals in the region received a total 2,500 litres, Marta Rosiak, spokesperson for the local customs administration, told AFP.

Aside from hospitals, contraband pure spirits will also be distributed to police, border guards and other public services.

Law enforcement authorities frequently crackdown on illegal distilleries in Poland, especially in the poorer north-east of the EU country, bordering Belarus and the Russian territory of Kaliningrad.

Potatoes or grain are used to produce “bimber”, or Polish moonshine, mostly in poorer rural areas where its low cost means it much more popular than legally-produced alcohol.

A country of 38 million people, Poland has reported 411 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including five deaths, as of Friday.