Last April 6, Davao City started to implement a 24/7 liquor ban to contain the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the dreaded coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
“No liquor and any other alcoholic or intoxicating drink shall be sold, served or consumed in public 24 hours of the day during the state of public health emergency,” said a memo by the Davao Region COVID-19 Task Force.
In Luzon, which is undergoing enhanced community quarantine, some cities and provinces also imposed a liquor ban. Cebu City also banned stores from selling liquor. But a group of alcoholic beverages urged the government to lift the total liquor ban as it “drives out the industry from the market.”
The Center for Alcohol Research and Development, in a letter addressed to Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez, wrote: “If this ban continues, the industry can no longer survive, a situation that can affect a large sector of the community.”
The World Health Organization (WHO) supports the avoidance of alcohol consumption during the COVID-19 pandemic. “Avoid alcohol altogether so that you do not undermine your own immune system and health and do not risk the health of others,” said a factsheet posted in its website.
“Stay sober so that you can remain vigilant, act quickly and make decisions with a clear head, for yourself and others in your family and community,” it added.
Parents are urged to discuss with their children and adults to talk with young people the problems associated with drinking and COVID-19, such as violations of quarantine and physical distancing, which can make the pandemic worse.
To slow down the spread of the virus, the WHO recommends physical distancing of at least one meter from sick people as a protective measure. “Physical distancing reduces the availability of alcohol, so it presents a great opportunity to reduce your drinking and become healthier,” the United Nations health agency says.
To limit the spread of COVID-19, countries have progressively introduced community-wide lockdowns and periods of quarantine for those who are suspected of having contracted the virus or have been in contact with someone infected by the virus.
“It is important to understand that alcohol poses risks to your health and safety and should therefore be avoided during periods of home isolation or quarantine,” the WHO points out.
The WHO factsheet gives these reasons:
· When working from home, adhere to your usual workplace rules and do not drink. Remember that after a lunch break you should still be in a fit state to work – and that is not possible if you are under the influence of alcohol.
· Alcohol is not a necessary part of your diet and should not be a priority on your shopping list. Avoid stockpiling alcohol at home, as this will potentially increase your alcohol consumption and the consumption of others in your household.
· Your time, money and other resources are better invested in buying healthy and nutritious food that will maintain good health and enhance your immune system response.
· You might think that alcohol helps you to cope with stress, but it is not in fact a good coping mechanism, as it is known to increase the symptoms of panic and anxiety disorders, depression and other mental disorders, and the risk of family and domestic violence.
· Instead of consuming alcohol to pass your time at home, try an indoor workout. Physical activity strengthens the immune system and overall – from both a short-term and long-term perspective – is a highly beneficial way of spending a period of quarantine.
· Do not introduce your children or other young people to drinking and do not get intoxicated in front of them. Child abuse and neglect can be aggravated by alcohol consumption, especially in crowded housing situations where isolation from the drinker is not possible.
· Alcohol use can increase during self-isolation and both, isolation and drinking, may also increase the risk of suicide, so reducing your alcohol consumption is very important.
· Alcohol is closely associated with violence, including intimate partner violence. Men perpetrate most of the violence against women, which is worsened by their alcohol consumption, while women experiencing violence are likely to increase their alcohol use as a coping mechanism.
Meanwhile, the WHO factsheet also highlights general myths about alcohol and COVID-19. For instance, some people believe that consuming alcohol destroys the virus that causes COVID-19.
“Consuming alcohol will not destroy the virus, and its consumption is likely to increase the health risks if a person becomes infected with the virus,” the factsheet explains. “Alcohol (at a concentration of at least 60% by volume) works as a disinfectant on your skin, but it has no such effect within your system when ingested.”
There are also those who think drinking strong alcohol kills the virus in the inhaled air. The truth is: “Consumption of alcohol will not kill the virus in the inhaled air; it will not disinfect your mouth and throat; and it will not give you any kind of protection against COVID-19.”
Still, others believe that alcohol (beer, wine, distilled spirits or herbal alcohol) stimulates immunity and resistance to the virus. That’s false. “Alcohol has a deleterious effect on your immune system and will not stimulate immunity and virus resistance,” the factsheet points out.
In conclusion, the WHO states: “Beware of claims made online that alcohol offers any essential benefits that you really need to have during your period of home isolation or quarantine. Alcohol is in no way a necessary component of your diet and lifestyle.”