Alcohol won’t protect against coronavirus, WHO says while urging limited consumption amid pandemic
Signs at a bar thank medical workers and advertises liquor to go in New York City.(David Dee Delgado/Getty Images)
Bad news, booze lovers.
The World Health Organization is decrying a “dangerous myth" that alcohol can kill COVID-19, the illness caused by coronavirus.
“Alcohol is known to be harmful to health in general,” the U.N. agency said on its website Tuesday, pointing to alcohol poisoning, domestic violence, and an increase in injury or violence. “Fear and misinformation have generated a dangerous myth that consuming high-strength alcohol can kill the COVID-19 virus. It does not.”
The organization added that people drinking high-strength ethyl alcohol, known as ethanol, or the intoxicating ingredient in boozy beverages, can face “severe health consequences, including death,” especially if methanol has been added.
WHO pointed to the negative effect alcohol has on one’s immune system, as well as the “range of communicable and non-communicable diseases and mental health disorders" it’s linked to, which could leave people “more vulnerable to COVID-19."
“At times of lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic, alcohol consumption can exacerbate health vulnerability, risk-taking behaviors, mental health issues and violence,” the organization said. “WHO/Europe reminds people that drinking alcohol does not protect them from COVID-19, and encourages governments to enforce measures which limit alcohol consumption.”
“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, the Program Manager for WHO/Europe’s Alcohol and Illicit Drugs Program, said.
WHO is calling for governments to restrict access to alcohol during the pandemic and other emergencies — “while any relaxation of regulations or their enforcement should be avoided” — and urges them to keep alcohol and drug addiction treatment services running and be open with communities about the risks linked to alcohol.