Lockdown drinking: draconian SA vs rest of world?
Some countries have banned alcohol, others say liquor shops are essential services, and one top official even suggested a tipple after another long day trapped at home can be a necessary restorative. [Billions of others likely agree too! Ed]
The debate around alcohol and the coronavirus pandemic touches on issues of health, the economy, worker safety — and whether for some a glass of wine may indeed help cope with the stress of seeing their lives upended in the space of weeks.
Police in South Africa is brutally enforcing a ban on all alcohol sales during the shutdown.
But in North America and much of Europe, alcohol stores remain open and busy — often protected under the same regulations that allow business such as supermarkets or pharmacies to operate.
Lockdown drinking in liberal Canada
In Canada — where legal cannabis stores have also stayed open — Quebec’s premier Francois Legault justified the decision to keep alcohol sales flowing, a move welcomed by consumers but criticised by a trade union concerned for shop workers.
“To reduce the stress, you have to do some exercise, so have a walk — but sometimes a glass of wine may help,” he said.
Unlike much of the world, Canadians are not under an official lockdown, but they have been urged to stay home and practice social distancing — and that has been enough to send alcohol sales soaring.
“Everyone feels like it is Friday or Saturday all the time,” said Catherine Paradis, an analyst at the Canadian Center on Addictions and Substance Use.
Consumers are hitting stores like “in the weeks before Christmas” as well as buying at peak levels online, according to a spokesman for the Societe des alcools du Quebec (SAQ) — a government corporation which last year reported net earnings of CAN$1.146-billion.
Nationwide, Paradis notes that closing stores selling alcohol would cut off a significant source of government revenue — estimated at about CAN$411 ($288) annually per person.
Lockdown drinking in liberal New York
On the other side of the border, New York, the epicenter of the epidemic in the US, has also placed wine and spirits stores on the list of “essential” businesses.
The New York State Liquor Stores Association confirms that sales have increased significantly.
“In a way, we are helping the economy,” president Stefan Kalogridis told AFP.
Experts also note that for people who are addicted, the side effects of abrupt alcohol withdrawal can include tremors, insomnia and nausea.
This “could have serious complications, especially if the person is confined to their home, it is very, very dangerous,” says Anne-Elizabeth Lapointe, director of the Addiction Prevention Center in Montreal….
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