Singapore-designed hand sanitiser vending machines in operation across the island

Vending machine assistant Tang Li Ring, 44, letting a resident try out the zero-alcohol sanitiser in Choa Chu Kang on April 12, 2021.
Vending machine assistant Tang Li Ring, 44, letting a resident try out the zero-alcohol sanitiser in Choa Chu Kang on April 12, 2021.ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN
Most machines allow collection 24 hours a day.
Most machines allow collection 24 hours a day. ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

SINGAPORE - Hand sanitiser vending machines said to be the first of their kind in the world went into action across Singapore on Monday (April 12).

Every household in the Republic is allowed to collect 500ml of zero-alcohol cleanser for free.

Retiree Liong Lai Fong, 79, visited Block 565, Choa Chu Kang Street 52 to pick hers up.

She said in Mandarin: "I came to collect the hand sanitiser today because it was written on the utilities bill."

The Temasek Foundation initiative - the second of its kind - uses machines that mix sanitiser concentrate with clean water and dispense the ready-to-use product into reusuable bottles. The vending machines were designed by the foundation, which said that they were the first in the world to automate the entire process.

A spokesman told ST that the zero-alcohol sanitiser being distributed had a new formulation with a higher concentration of benzalkonium chloride, which is recognised by the National Environment Agency as being effective against coronaviruses.

Dr Somika Bhatnagar, head of plant transformation and tissue culture at Temasek Life Sciences Laboratory, said it is as effective as hand sanitiser with ethanol but also non-toxic, non-flammable and gentle on the skin.

"You can also use it for cleaning surfaces," she said. "It does not cause skin irritation."

The sanitiser is available to residents from the vending machines at Temasek Shophouse and all 108 community centres or clubs (CCs) islandwide until April 25.

Most machines allow collection 24 hours a day. Those in Bukit Merah, Joo Chiat, Katong, Siglap South, Toa Payoh East and Toa Payoh South CCs are open every day from 10am to 10pm.

Residents need to bring their own bottles and their Singapore Power (SP) March or April bill, which contains a QR code, or their SP household account number.

MP Alex Yam, Mayor of North West District, said at the launch that the machines would ensure high-quality hand sanitiser is being used and allow PA volunteers to be redeployed to help with the vaccination programme and TraceTogether.

"I'm very encouraged that residents are quite used to the system now. Whether it's mask collection or sanitisers, they know what to bring and where to go, and I think that's quite helpful for all of us," he added.

Volunteer Edmund Chan, 54, a Singapore Airlines cabin crew member who will be helping residents collecting the sanitiser, said: "I think during this Covid period, we have to keep up with the SGUnited spirit, to try to help one another and give back to the society."

In March last year, 500ml of hand sanitiser was also made available for free to households across the island.