Estonia is one of the many European countries effectively using alcohol availability measures to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. The initial temporary alcohol sales ban was to be lifted on January 26, 2021 but then prolonged till February, 2021. Now, the government has further extended this measure till March 31, 2021.
The current rules for entertainment venues to close at 9:00 PM will remain. This means on-premise alcohol will not be available after 9:00 PM. As per the temporary sales ban, off-premise alcohol sales will be banned after 10:00 PM till 10:00 AM the following day.
The government stated the alcohol availability measure is being extended as the rate of coronavirus infection is still high.
Early on in the coronavirus pandemic when many governments had to introduce lockdown measures during the first COVID-19 wave, the World Health Organization (WHO) issued guidance to member states to limit alcohol availability in order to help contain the outbreak, protect health service capacity and promote people’s health.
Improving alcohol policy measures helps during the pandemic for several different reasons:
- Alcohol fuels the pandemic on individual and societal levels.
- Alcohol is a risk factor for spreading infection and increasing risks of complications
- Alcohol is causing other medical and social problems that burden healthcare and other services.
Physiological impacts of alcohol weaken immune system functioning and affect a range of organs, thereby increasing the risk of viral infection, severity, recovery and long-term consequences.
Alcohol-centric social contexts have played a crucial role in ‘super-spreader’ events, amplifying the coronavirus outbreak early, and later driving the resurgence after initial control.
Alcohol use has played a crucial role in the transmission and propagation of the coronavirus pandemic with major social and economic implications.
Interactions between the consumption and/ or sale of alcohol and COVID-19 clearly represent a major public health challenge.
Alcohol contributes to over 400 varieties of illness and injury. On average, alcohol contributes to 20% of injuries and 11.5% of all non-injury emergency department presentations.