A HUNTER company that is the nation's largest manufacturer of sterilants, disinfectants and cleaning products says demand for its products has "probably tripled" and its supply efforts have "dramatically increased" in the wake of the Coronavirus outbreak.
Tomago-based Whiteley Corporation exports to more than 20 countries and is the main supplier of a range of cleaning and disinfecting products to hospitals and healthcare facilities around the country.
Its chairman, Dr Greg Whiteley, an adjunct professor at the School of Medicine at Western Sydney University and member of the Australian Society of Microbiology who leads hygiene-related research at five universities - said Whiteley had increased staff to cope.
Dr Whiteley said exports were growing in excess of 20 per cent and the company had seen a "spike" in enquiries from the US, Europe and Asia. Products most in demand are alcohol-based hand rubs, sanitisers and surface disinfectants.
"We are fielding requests for supply from a number of Asian countries which frankly no-one in Australia would be able to fulfil but they are testing the market," he said. "In Australia the product volume requests are up from what we would expect and that will have flow-on benefits for the Hunter because we are a local manufacturer, and a lot of our technical support and supply chain comes from various-sized local providers."
Dr Whiteley said demand began to rise at the end of January, initially from local companies or wholesalers supplying hygiene and cleaning products into different sectors, for example nursing homes.
"We would have expected our domestic medical channels, which make up 75 per cent of our volume, to be driving that, but initially it was our community and industrial supply channels. Now it is across the board," he said.
Dr Whiteley said Whiteley's alcohol-based hand rubs were "flying off the shelf" and surface disinfectants were in high demand.
"We can keep up with demand and these products are really important because at this stage [COVID-19] is quite different to say an influenza virus. There appear to be a lot more risks around surface contaminations and ... it appears the virus can be picked up on someone's hands," he said.
He said COVID-19 virus was spreading slower than a flu and the onset of symptoms were also slower.
"That's why the World Health Organisation is saying it is still possible to contain it," he said. "The longer it goes, the more staff we will employ because it becomes a marathon. At the moment we have gone from sprint to middle distance. Will it become a marathon? We are not sure."
While you're with us, did you know the Newcastle Herald offers breaking news alerts, daily email newsletters and more? Keep up to date with all the local news - sign up here
IN NEWS TODAY