With the number of coronavirus cases continuing to rise, natural cosmetics chain Lush is inviting passers-by into its shops to wash their hands for free to help prevent the spread of the illness.

The company has put posters up in its shop windows for the ‘public service’, illustrating the correct hand-washing technique, and those taking advantage of its sinks will be given soap to use with no obligation to make a purchase.

In a statement, the company said: “Since we’re universally known as ‘that soap shop’, from Friday 28th February we’re using our shop windows to promote the hand-washing guidelines advised by the NHS in the UK and other public health organisations around the world.

“The winter months are always a time when hand hygiene matters because coughs and colds pass around, but the current situation with the spread of the new coronavirus means that it’s more important than ever that people regularly wash their hands and observe best practice.

“It is also important that people understand the full, effective routine of washing as advised by the health authorities to maximise the removal of germs.

“We know there are practicalities to being able to wash hands when out and about. We thought that offering our shops gives somewhere for the public to do this without having to seek out public toilets (a diminishing resource these days).

“So we’re saying people can come in off the street and wash their hands in our place. We’ve got loads of soap and plenty of hot water.”

Many social media users have commended Lush for coming up with the initiative and praised the brand for being one of very few to address coronavirus and offer a way to help. Others have questioned the move and the motives behind it, highlighting the fact it will inevitably drive footfall into stores and questioning whether the company is using the outbreak to attract more customers in to sample their products.

Lush is known for its involvement and outspokenness around social issues, and is recognised for showing real awareness of the problems faced by society. Despite some scrutiny, there’s no doubt the business has been successful in positioning itself as a socially conscious company, with hard-set values.

Only time will tell if more brands will follow suit and begin linking themselves with the public health scare. Those that do will need to consider whether they have a genuine association and truly need to be involved, or they could risk getting it very, very wrong.