The World Health Organization is warning that drinking alcohol makes people more susceptible to the coronavirus, and is urging governments to uphold, or even strengthen, restrictions on buying booze.
In a statement this week, WHO’s Regional Office for Europe said that alcohol consumption “compromises the body’s immune system and increases the risk of adverse health outcomes. Therefore, people should minimize their alcohol consumption at any time, and particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
It also pointed out that excessive drinking can lead to a host of other harmful outcomes, including domestic violence, risk-taking behaviors and depression.
The health organization also stressed that alcohol definitely does not protect from COVID-19, calling the claim that high-strength alcohol can kill the virus “a dangerous myth.”
“Alcohol is responsible for 3 million deaths a year worldwide,” WHO said. “Existing rules and regulations to protect health and reduce harm caused by alcohol, such as restricting access, should be upheld and even reinforced during the COVID-19 pandemic and emergency situations.”
“During the COVID-19 pandemic, we should really ask ourselves what risks we are taking in leaving people under lockdown in their homes with a substance that is harmful both in terms of their health and the effects of their behavior on others, including violence,” Carina Ferreira-Borges, WHO Europe’s program manager for alcohol and illicit drugs, said in a statement.
Last month, WHO called drinking an “unhelpful coping strategy” for those cooped up at home during the coronavirus crisis, warning it “can make things worse.”
That doesn’t seem to be stopping consumers, however. U.S. sales of alcoholic beverages shot up at the end of March, as many stay-at-home orders were put in place. And while many states have deemed liquor stores “essential” businesses that could stay open, online alcohol sales soared 243%, according to Nielsen.