Sri Lanka: ADIC Calls on President to Halt Alcohol Availability Increase During COVID-19
Sri Lanka banned alcohol sales along with imposing curfew measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 from late March. On Sunday April 19, the government decided to lift the alcohol ban along with relaxing the curfew measures. The Alcohol and Drug Information Centre (ADIC), a member of Movendi International, has expressed criticism of and opposition against this measure as it will increase availability of alcohol during the pandemic and likely harm people and burden people and communities further.
The World Health Organization (WHO) have advised governments to restrict access to alcohol as the substance increases problems and places a largely avoidable burden on the health system and other government services during this pandemic.
As the statement by ADIC read, Sri Lanka has been successful in controlling the pandemic so far due to the effective decisions taken by the leadership of the country as advised by public health experts. Therefore, this completely irrational decision to re-open alcohol outlets along with relaxing curfew laws is astounding to all.
Following are the consequences ADIC warns will occur if alcohol is made available while curfew is relaxed:
- Alcohol consumption weakens the immune system leading to increased risk of contracting coronavirus among alcohol users.
- Alcohol use can increase road traffic accidents from driving under the influence of alcohol; this would unnecessarily increase the burden on the healthcare system, doctors, nurses and hospital personnel, emergency services, law enforcement officers and public resources, which are already strained due to the pandemic.
- Increasing domestic violence and public conflict fueled by alcohol will lead to further burdening of the healthcare system, emergency services and law enforcement.
- Increasing spending on alcohol by people with lower-socio economic status will further increase the strain on and vulnerability of these families.
- Crowding near bars/ alcohol outlets will undermine physical distancing measures.
- Further obstruction to physical distancing as alcohol is generally consumed in groups.
ADIC’s statement also cited that public health specialists in Sri Lanka in “Exit strategy of COVID-19 epidemic in Sri Lanka Recommendations of the College of Community Physicians” have clearly stated that bars and other alcohol outlets should not be opened during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
It is unacceptable for the government who was acting on a scientific basis to address COVID-19 to now abandon all scientific evidence and re-open bars,” read the statement by ADIC, as per Daily Mirror.
ADIC called upon the President to take urgent action to stop re-opening of alcohol outlets and to safeguard the nation and all Sri Lankans.
Government reimposes ban on alcohol sales
The voices from the community and the pressure from public health experts, civil society and the broader public led to the government reimposing the ban on alcohol sales by closing all liquor shops until further notice, as reported by the President’s Media Division on April 21.
This measure will help save more lives during the pandemic and to reduce alcohol’s burden on healthcare, emergency services and law enforcement in Sri Lanka. It will also reduce social problems related to alcohol and help in maintaining better physical and mental well-being of Sri Lankans. It’s a win for the country.