This article provides a snap overview of how several countries around the world are addressing alcohol availability to bolster their efforts to contain the novel coronavirus. The chosen solutions range from alcohol sales bans to closure of bars and nightclubs.
There are several reasons why restricting alcohol availability helps in fighting against the ongoing pandemic.
- Alcohol weakens the immune system, making people more susceptible to the virus.
- Alcohol is a risk factor for non-communicable diseases which increase the risk of death from infections such as COVID-19.
- Injuries and violence related to alcohol increase the burden on the already strained healthcare system and emergency services, which can lead to more loss of life.
- As alcohol is usually consumed in groups, it threatens physical distancing measures.
Due to these reasons many governments across the world have adopted a range of quick and effective measures to reduce alcohol availability in order to bolster their overall efforts to limit and minimize the spread and impact of COVID-19.
South Africa was one of the countries to successfully implement an alcohol sales ban early on in the pandemic to control the spread of the virus and thereby to greatly reduce the alcohol burden on the healthcare system. Despite the incessant lobbying of Big Alcohol the alcohol sales ban in the country remained until June.
Once the ban was lifted the country saw a “nightmarish” rise in alcohol related injuries and trauma in hospitals. By July 16, the government reintroduced the ban, as COVID-19 cases were rapidly rising and alcohol was over-burdening hospitals.
As COVID-19 cases started to increase rapidly in Kenya, the country has implemented a ban on the sale of alcohol in restaurants, bars and eateries and closed down bars from July 27th.
The nightly curfew was also extended by 30 days. Earlier in June the Kenyan government began easing economic and domestic travel restrictions. However, since coronavirus cases keep rising, the major concern has become young Kenyans gathering – often around alcohol consumption – and then spreading the virus to older people. Closing bars and banning alcohol from restaurants is expected to help tackle the situation.
In early July, Eswatini banned alcohol sales for two months.
Citing a rise in coronavirus cases, the southern African nation of Eswatini announced an immediate ban on the production and distribution of alcohol for two months, according to AA reporting.
Ambrose Mandvulo Dlamini, the nation’s prime minister, said the decision was taken after it emerged that alcohol consumption was among the leading causes of the coronavirus spreading in the community, following a recently eased lockdown.
Over the past two weeks we have seen an unfortunate surge of positive cases in the country, which suggests that we have to review some of the restrictions lifted to avoid overwhelming our health system,” said Prime Minister Dlamini
We will be monitoring the situation and the public will be updated.”Ambrose Mandvulo Dlamini, Prime Minister, Eswatini
Large gatherings and house parties remain banned. Some 11 people have also died of COVID-19, with the total number of infections amounting to 812. Eswatini has a population of 1.2 million people.
Bars and restaurants in Lebanon’s capital city Beirut were closed until May. They were permitted to reopen in the beginning of May. However, due to the threat of a second wave of coronavirus infections the nightlife venue (which also sell alcohol) were closed again from July 30.
Hong Kong was returning to normal when a resurgence of COVID-19 cases emerged in the country. As a response Hong Kong’s government has quickly reimposed restrictions on commerce, movement and gatherings in public places.
Hong Kong has closed down bars and nightclubs among other venues from July 15 to August 4, with a possible extension depending on the case load in the country.
The city of Danang in Vietnam saw a sudden outbreak of COVID-19 resulting in the closure of bars and pubs. Gatherings in the capital city Hanoi have also been restricted.
Spain lifted their national lockdown in June leading to a rise in tourists and people gathering in nightclubs and bars. This led to a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases in the country. The northeastern region of Catalonia, which includes Barcelona, has recorded the largest surge. The regional government shut down all nightclubs to curb the harm, according to Nacio Digital reporting.
As people started to take to public places to gather and consume alcohol, the regional government banned alcohol use in public spaces and imposed a fine ranging from €3,000 (roughly $3,500) to €15,000 ($17,650) on anyone consuming alcohol outside of a licensed venue.
In an attempt to contain the virus from spreading through nighttime venues other regional authorities have also instituted new public health rules:
- Regional authorities in Galicia have banned outdoor alcohol consumption.
- In Valencia, authorities have closed all nighttime venues in Gandía after COVID-19 cases rose rapidly.
Across Germany, cities and municipalities have instituted limits and bans on alcohol consumption in public. From Hamburg in the north to Bavaria in the south, addressing alcohol’s role in the spread of the coronavirus has become an important part of the solution to contain COVID-19 – especially since infections are rising, in part because of people returning home from vacation trips abroad and in part due to a decline in adherence to physical distancing and hygiene recommendations.
Even, the 36 clubs of the German Football League (DFL) – Germany’s pro football governing body – have agreed on an alcohol ban in the arenas to better facilitate re-admission of spectators and possible contact tracing of coronavirus infections chains.
The national government of Ecuador has decided to ban alcohol sales on weekends to avoid coronavirus spread.
Ecuadorian authorities established the alcohol sales ban from Friday to Sunday in most of the country’s provinces, as a measure to stop the spread of COVID-19 in the midst of a health emergency. The number of positive cases of COVID-19 in Ecuador rose to 83,193 (as of July 30, 2020), while the official death toll amounted to 5,623, according to Las Provincias reporting.
In an official statement, the national Emergency Operations Committee (COE) – in charge of adopting the measures to curb the pandemic – announced the provision would come into effect from August 1 and that the alcohol sales ban would extend for 15 days, “with the exception of category 4 tourist restaurants, where it is allowed as an accompanying drink,” according to Las Provincias.
It is implemented in 19 of the 24 provinces of the country, where also “social gatherings of all kinds” remain prohibited, and where a curfew will also remain in place.
Already in April, the World Health Organization released guidance for countries to enforce measures which limit alcohol consumption – and thus help fight the novel coronavirus.