WHO says alcohol won't kill the coronavirus — in fact, it may kill you

WHO has called on governments to reduce access to alcohol during lockdown, saying consumption can increase the risk of catching the coronavirus and worsen chances of recovery once contracted.
WHO has called on governments to reduce access to alcohol during lockdown, saying consumption can increase the risk of catching the coronavirus and worsen chances of recovery once contracted.
Image: 123RF/kzenon

The ban on alcohol sales during the lockdown is still firmly in place, and by the look of things it will not be lifted any time soon.

The World Health Organisation (WHO), during a briefing in Europe on Wednesday, called on governments around the world to tighten restrictions on access to alcohol during lockdown, saying consumption can increase the risk of catching the coronavirus and worsen chances of recovery once contracted.

WHO said alcohol consumption was associated with a number of communicable and noncommunicable diseases that can make a person more vulnerable to catching the virus.

“Alcohol compromises the body’s immune system and increases the risk of adverse health outcomes,” the organisation said. “Therefore, people should minimise their alcohol consumption at any time, and particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic.”

In SA, co-operative governance minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma announced on Thursday that the ban on alcohol sales was still in place and would not be lifted during the lockdown.

Dlamini-Zuma said the only alcohol allowed to be transported was that which is used for commercial purposes, such as for sanitisers.

“Liquor that you drink is not allowed to be exported or transported in the same way it is not allowed to be sold,” she said.

WHO noted that alcohol may put those with mental health struggles and a history of alcohol abuse at a greater risk because of increased self-isolation. The organisation said it may also raise the risk of domestic violence.

“During the Covid-19 pandemic, we should really ask ourselves what risks we are taking by leaving people under lockdown in their homes with a substance that is harmful both in terms of their health and the effects of their behaviour on others, including violence,” said WHO's alcohol and illicit drugs programme manager, Carina Ferreira-Borges.

WHO also debunked the “dangerous myth that consuming high-strength alcohol can kill the coronavirus”.

“It does not,” said WHO, adding that it could result in serious health issues, including death, especially if it is adulterated with methanol.


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