On 4th December 2020 at 6pm all licenced hospitality premises (including sports clubs) that sell alcohol for on premises consumption were ordered to stop alcohol sales until further notice as part of Welsh parliament’s rules to restrict the spread of COVID-19. The First minister, Mark Drakeford, believes such a ban will prevent over 1,700 deaths from COVID-19 during winter.1
Alcohol and COVID-19:
Organs responsible for body tissue repair, blood clotting and immunity functions can be impaired and damaged by alcohol use.
Alcohol can lower immunity and increase the risk of pneumonia and tuberculosis. A condition that severe COVID-19 has been causing is acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). ARDS is a life-threatening condition, fluid fills up air sacs in the lungs, impacting the body’s oxygen supply. Alcohol can increase a person’s risk of developing ARDS. 2 A health expert based in the UK, Dr Aragone Giuseppe explained during lockdown and home drinking discussions that consuming excessive amounts of alcohol could cause damage to immune cells in the lungs and respiratory system. Alcohol can affect the gut barrier allowing more bacteria to pass into the blood.
Why ban alcohol sales?
Alcohol contributes to a large number of hospital admissions either through long-term /short-term health impacts or alcohol related injuries. This leads to a high number of bed spaces being taken up in a pressured environment. By restricting alcohol consumption, especially in licenced premises, that number of alcohol related injuries taking up hospital A&E and hospital beds could be reduced. When alcohol sales were prohibited in South Africa during the first lockdown, the country saw an increase of 5000 beds being available to treat COVID-19 patients as alcohol related injury admissions went down.3
Following the reopening of Wales since their national firewall lockdown, cases of COVID-19 have begun to rise, especially within the under 23-year-old age group. December usually sees the Christmas party season where a large number of this age group maybe out partying in alcohol licenced premises. Alcohol lowers inhibitions and therefore may hinder COVID-19 distance restrictions and other precautions.
Not all alcohol is banned:
Those with Off-licences, including supermarkets, can sell alcohol until 10pm each day. Hotels can serve alcohol through room service but not in its restaurants or bars. Although hospitality venues have to close by 6pm each day, they can do take away until 10pm which includes serving alcohol if they have an off-site sales licence.
Do people need alcohol to enjoy hospitality venues?
During our Safe night out education programmes we often ask the question:
‘Do you need to drink alcohol to enjoy a night out?’ The response is varied but most young people do say a person does not need alcohol to enjoy the night. Hospitality venues are more than just about the alcohol, some have not seen a difference in their bookings since Friday. Some venues gave their customers the choice if they wanted to cancel their booking following the ban of on premises alcohol sales, many decided to continue their bookings.
Wales are trying to keep hospitality going while reducing COVID-19 risks. Welsh residents have also been banned from travelling to England to access open venues who are serving alcohol during this time. However, if the English border is in Tier 3 this would not be an option as all tier 3 pubs, cafes and restaurants are all closed. This alcohol sales ban is due to be reviewed on 17th December 2020.
- Covid: Alcohol ban for Welsh pubs and restaurants from Friday – BBC News
- Alcohol and coronavirus (COVID-19): Myths and effects on the body (medicalnewstoday.com)
- Alcohol and the Outbreak | philcain.com