Turkey fights coronavirus with secret weapon: eau de cologne

By Agence France-Presse

ISTANBUL - In Turkey, sprinkling hands with cologne has long been a ritual for a visit to the barber, a meal at a restaurant or even a trip on the bus. It is seen as a symbol of hospitality, as well as an aid to hygiene, in a country that sets great store by both.

Health Minister Fahrettin Koca urged Turks to use cologne as an alternative hand sanitiser against the virus (AFP Photo/Ozan KOSE) Health Minister Fahrettin Koca urged Turks to use cologne as an alternative hand sanitizer against the virus (AFP Photo/Ozan KOSE)

Now Turkish cologne -- found in almost every household, either in the fridge or a closet -- is seeing unprecedented demand as a weapon in the fight against the novel coronavirus.

Many Turks believe cologne, which has a high alcohol content, is effective in keeping hands and faces clean and thus warding off the risk of COVID-19. Now shops and pharmacies have put up signs reading “cologne sold out.”

'A good hand sanitizer’

Is the belief that cologne is effective againstcoronavirus grounded in science? Professor Bulent Ertugrul, board member of the Turkish Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, said alcohol can destroy the outer membrane of the coronavirus.

“As alcohol is a good solvent, it destroys this lipid envelope,” he told AFP. Ertugrul said the best protection against the new coronavirus is washing one’s hands after contact with the environment.

But he added: “If soap and water are not available, using a hand sanitizer that is at least 60 percent alcohol can help.” Cologne fits the bill, he said.

“As we know, cologne contains at least 70 percent alcohol,” he said. “That’s why it is a good hand sanitizer against COVID-19.”