A number of other people who also consumed the alcohol-based sanitiser in the town of Kurichedu, in Andhra Pradesh, were discharged from hospital.
Those who had died mixed the product with water and soft drinks, and had started drinking the mixture about 10 days before they died, the BBC reported district police chief Siddharth Kaushal as saying.
“Some people who are heavily addicted to alcohol had been consuming hand sanitisers for the high,” Mr Kaushal told Reuters, adding that some of those who died had other health conditions.
“Alcohol is not available because of the lockdown, but hand sanitisers are easily available … we are investigating whether the sanitiser had any other toxic content.”
While India’s federal government has allowed the reopening of most economic activities, many states including Andhra Pradesh are still isolating certain pockets where coronavirus infections have surged, including Kurichedu.
Meanwhile, in the northern Dinkar Gupta state, at least 21 people died this week after drinking tainted alcohol.
A state government statement said the deaths were due to “spurious” alcohol and a crackdown on illegal alcohol manufacturing in the state was ordered.
Deaths from illegally brewed alcohol are common in India, where poor residents cannot afford licensed brands from government-run shops.
India reported another record daily surge in coronavirus cases on Thursday, registering 55,078 new infections – bringing the country’s total to 1.64 million.
Reported cases in Andhra Pradesh have leapt nine-fold in a month, compared with about a three-fold increase in the country as a whole in the same period. The state has the highest rate of testing per million people in the country.
Additional reporting by agencies