An Isle of Harris company has repurposed its entire operation to provide emergency supplies to island people during the Coronavirus crisis.

Essence of Harris has had to rethink its strategy as consumers withdraw from the high street in these uncertain times.

But business-owner Jamie McGowan has immediately seen a need that he can meet – the urgent requirement for hand sanitiser to protect islanders from the spread of infection.

Now he has switched his equipment, his staff and some of his existing supplies to manufacture alcohol-based gel and rub, with the intention of launching the new products as a free offer by next week.

Jamie said: “This is not a project for financial gain. It’s something we want to do for the Highlands and Islands, which have supported us with our business for so long. It is so important that we look out for each other and support one another through what can seem like very uncertain times.

“I contacted Simon at Isle of Harris Distillers and he has supplied some of the ingredients. Others we have been sourcing since last week as the crisis began to bite on the mainland.

“I’m using the World Health Organisation’s suggested formulation for hand sanitiser and some of the packaging I already had. The bonus is that we already have the equipment we need to make this.”

A 100ml alcohol flash rinse and a 250ml sanitiser gel are already in production and the product, made in limited quantities, is going out of the door as fast as it is ready.

Jamie said: “Local care homes want it, I’ve had requests from families with vulnerable relatives and today I had a call from Police Scotland in Inverness.

“This is nothing to do with making money. For now, our intention is to be giving it out to those who need it, because it’s something we can do for our own island.”

Essence of Harris contacted Isles MP Angus Brendan MacNeil to tell him of their plans to provide an alcohol hand sanitiser which would be made available to public facing Western Isles workers.

Mr MacNeil said “Both companies are to be commended for this further example of the community working together to enable everyone to follow the guidelines about hand washing and social distancing. This Hand Gel will be available to public facing workers whether in shops, care settings or other places where it is needed.

“It is pleasing to see churches, tourist outlets and other businesses closing or changing how they work to encourage social distancing at great cost to their businesses but for the benefit of us all.

S"ome cafes, pubs and clubs have stayed open but please stay away from crowded places. In public places be sure you stay at least 2 metres away from others and don’t go in if they are busy. We do not want to look back in three weeks and wish we had done more. In reality this is not holiday time and if you have come back to the islands from the cities best to stay at home for at least a week and distance yourself.

"Social distancing can have a big impact on the spread of the virus and we must all look after each other by following the guidelines.” 

You can contact Essence of Harris at info@essenceofharris 01859 502768 or check their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/essenceofharris/ for up-to-date information.