Ambev turns Brazil beer brewery into sanitizer plant to help coronavirus fight

SAO PAULO, March 17 (Reuters) - With alcohol gel supplies increasingly stretched, Ambev SA said on Tuesday it will use one of its Brazil beer breweries to produce half a million sanitizer bottles for public hospitals to fight the spread of coronavirus.

Ambev SA, the local subsidiary of Anheuser Busch InBev , said in a statement that it plans to deliver 5,000 sanitizer gel bottles to every public hospital in Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Brasilia, where most of the country’s coronavirus cases are concentrated.

“Demand for alcohol-based sanitizer gel has continued to increase in recent days and there is already a shortage on the market,” Ambev, Latin America’s biggest brewer, said in a statement on Tuesday.

The move is part of global trend of private sector firms stepping up to help in the battle against COVID-19, which has decimated markets and pushed governments to take extreme measures to try and control the outbreak.

Louis Vuitton owner LVMH said on Sunday that its cosmetics unit would manufacture large quantities of hand disinfectant gel to help stave off a nationwide shortage across France as the coronavirus rapidly spreads.

Ambev said the 500,000 units will be packaged in bottles like the ones used for soft drinks, and the alcohol will come from the production of its Brahma local beer and other brands at one of its breweries in Rio de Janeiro state.

Brazil on Tuesday reported its first confirmed death from the coronavirus outbreak, a 62-year-old man with a history of diabetes and hypertension. Tests were underway on four other possible COVID-19 fatalities.

Brazil has 291 confirmed coronavirus cases, up from 234 on Monday. (Reporting by Gabriela Mello; Editing by Dan Grebler)