Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason recommended the closure of pubs, bars and nightclubs as a method of curbing the virus and a possible virus cluster following a previous incident of many coronavirus infection cases tracing back to a bar in Reykjavik. The recommendation was accepted by Minister of Health Svandís Svavarsdóttir and accordingly the closure is set come into force in Reykjavík, Mosfellsbær, Hafnarfjörður, Garðabær, Kópavogur, Kjósarhreppur and Seltjarnarnes.
According to the memo by Minister of Health Svavarsdóttir, the closure is being instituted as COVID-19 cases reached 38 within three days on September 18, 2020 and at least a quarter of them had visited certain pubs and nightclubs in Reykjavik within a week of infection.
The Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management has revealed the name of one pub in Reykjavík, where a large number of people are believed to have been exposed to COVID-19. Authorities asked anyone who visited the pub between 4:00 PM and 11:00 PM on September 11 to get tested for coronavirus.
Alcohol fuels coronavirus spread in many countries
Many other countries and jurisdictions have so far also implemented either time-based bans on alcohol sales or limitations of opening hours of alcohol outlets such as pubs and nightclubs.
Alcohol use has been found to undermine protective health guidelines such as mask use and physical distancing. People gathering in large groups, ignoring health guidelines, to consume alcohol leads to increased spread of the virus. One recent study found that among young adults who used alcohol, adherence to public policies to curb the coronavirus, such as stay-at-home orders, decreased over time and was related to alcohol use events.
Apart from dissipating crowded gatherings there are other important reasons for limiting alcohol availability during the pandemic. As the World Health Organization has advised, these include:
- Alcohol increases the risk of infection and risk of more severe COVID-19 disease progression,
- Alcohol weakens the immune system, and
- Alcohol-related injury, disease and violence increase the burden on healthcare and emergency services which are already near or over capacity.