The World Health Organisation (WHO) has urged governments around the world to tighten restrictions on access to alcohol during the lockdown, saying consumption can increase the risk of catching the coronavirus and worsen chances of recovery once contracted.
The WHO Europe in a publication said alcohol consumption was associated with a number of communicable and noncommunicable diseases that can make a person more vulnerable to Coronavirus.
“Alcohol consumption is associated with a range of communicable and noncommunicable diseases and mental health disorders, which can make a person more vulnerable to COVID-19,” the organisation said.
“In particular, alcohol compromises the body’s immune system and increases the risk of adverse health outcomes. Therefore, people should minimize their alcohol consumption at any time, and particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic”.
The WHO also discounted “a dangerous myth” that consuming high-strength alcohol can kill the COVID-19 virus, warning that the consumption of high-strength ethanol could result in death.
Restricting alcohol access during the COVID-19 pandemic
Alcohol is responsible for 3 million deaths a year worldwide, a third of which occur in the WHO European Region, also the region with the highest prevalence of alcohol use disorders in the population and the highest share of deaths caused by alcohol, among all deaths.
“Alcohol is consumed in excessive quantities in the European Region, and leaves too many victims. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we should really ask ourselves what risks we are taking in leaving people under lockdown in their homes with a substance that is harmful both in terms of their health and the effects of their behaviour on others, including violence,” Carina Ferreira-Borges, Programme Manager, Alcohol and Illicit Drugs Programme, WHO/Europe said.
Meanwhile, the South African government has reaffirmed its position on an alcohol ban currently in place to prevent the further spread of COVID-19.
Addressing the media on Thursday afternoon, Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, charged with overseeing government’s response to the outbreak under the Disaster Management Act, revealed that laws would not be amended to allow for the sale of liquor.
Dlamini-Zuma, who was joined by Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola, said that law enforcement operations, conducted by the South African Police Service (SAPS), with support from the National Defence Force (SANDF), would continue to crack down on defiant liquor distributors.
Dlamini-Zuma reiterated: “We are stressing the prohibition of the transport of liquor. The only alcohol that is allowed to be transported, is the one that is used for commercial purposes… for our sanitisers. Liquor that you drink, is not allowed to be exported in the same way that it is not allowed to be sold.”