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Dettol sales surge on Coronavirus fears with false claims

There have been a number of unusual claims about the new strain of coronavirus that has infected thousands of people and spread to a number of countries.

But perhaps one of the most unusual surrounds a claim that a popular household surface cleaner can kill the deadly virus.

On Monday, Facebook user Andy Freeman posted a picture of the back of a bottle of Dettol, which states in the small print that it kills the “human coronavirus”. He wrote underneath: “Well, well, well. Corona Virus on a Dettol bottle! Anyone would think they were forewarned.”

The post has since been shared more than a thousand times.

While many in the comments section below were quick to point out that coronavirus is a category of viruses that includes a range of different respiratory illnesses, the post implies that the new strain was anticipated or older than reported.

Facebook responded to the post by adding a “related article” written by independent fact-checking site FullFact. It comes after the social network said it is building on existing efforts to tackle dangerous conspiracy theories, such as false suggestions that drinking bleach cures the virus.

Full Fact said the claim “doesn’t mean that Dettol spray can kill the new coronavirus identified in Wuhan”.

It said: “A photo of the back of a Dettol bottle, which mentions that it kills ‘human coronavirus’, has been shared on Facebook over a thousand times.

“The implication seems to be that the new coronavirus observed in Wuhan, China is not new, or was somehow anticipated.

“Coronavirus is a category of viruses that includes the common cold, and it is likely this the label is referring to.”

Health experts said that the Dettol claims most likely referred to the common cold.

Dr Jonathan Stoye, a virologist at the Francis Crick Institute in London, said the common cold can come under the coronavirus category.

A spokeswoman for British company Reckitt Benckiser, which makes Dettol, said: “RB has become aware of speculation about Dettol products and the novel 2019-nCoV coronavirus.

“As this is an emerging outbreak RB, like all manufacturers, doesn’t yet have access to the new virus for testing and, as a result, are not yet in a position to confirm levels of effectiveness against the new strain.

“Our products have been tested against other coronaviruses (such as MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV) and have been found to kill those. Although 2019-nCoV is a new strain, this virus is very similar to other coronaviruses.

“We continue to work with our partners to ensure that we have the latest understanding of the virus, route of transmission and will test our product range once health authorities make the strain available.”

RB said it has donated £5.5 million in “cash and products” to help mobilise medical staff to treat those affected and provide soap and hand sanitisers to hospitals in Wuhan.

n China, demand for Dettol-branded hand gels is outstripping supply, owner Reckitt Benckiser has said.

The shortages come as global markets slump for a sixth day, with the FTSE 100 trading almost 2% down.

Luxury carmaker Aston Martin and drinks giant Anheuser-Busch InBev are the latest to warn of the virus’s impact on their businesses.

Shares in AB InBev, the world’s largest beer maker, fell 9% after it forecast muted growth in 2020, partly due to the outbreak
Aston Martin shares tumbled to a record low as it posted a £104m loss before tax and warned it had seen demand drop because of the virus.
“We are seeing some increased demand for Dettol and Lysol products and are working to support the relevant healthcare authorities and agencies, including through donations, information and education. We do see increased activity online for our consumers in China,” Dettol owner Reckitt Benckiser said in its results on Thursday.

“If you look at China today, what you are seeing is that consumer traffic to store is down, but you do see activity moving to online,” Reckitt Benckiser chief executive Laxman Narasimhan said.

He added the firm had “seen some disruptions to retail and distribution channels and getting products in to market”, meaning the effect on company performance had been balanced.

Hand washing with soap is one of the key health messages promoted by governments in the face of the outbreak, and Dettol and Lysol are two of the world’s leading disinfectants.

Online pharmacy Medino said it had also seen a sharp rise in demand for hand sanitiser in the UK since the beginning of early February, and said some suppliers were starting to struggle.

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