Alcohol Action Ireland, the national independent advocate for reducing alcohol harm, today (7 Oct) notes the commentary emanating from government sources that restrictions are being considered on the sale of alcohol in the Off-Trade retail landscape.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, Alcohol Action has consistently highlighted, to government, the difficulties arising throughout society because of the exceptional level of cheap alcohol pouring into people’s homes. In April, we reported 44% increase in sales, in May we highlighted 70% increases, in June 93%, in July 76%, and a further 44% in August.
Many public figures continue to emphasise the need for personal responsibility in tackling the spread of the virus yet remain silent about the ‘elephant in the room’ that is our unfettered use of alcohol and its contribution to spreading the virus.
Alcohol use and our capacity to adhere to public health COVID guidelines are difficult bedfellows. Fundamentally, alcohol use impairs judgement, lower inhibitions and reduces reaction time; coordination, balance, perception and self-control are all affected.
Crucially, loss of agency weakens personal resolve to manage transmission risk. We cannot hope to protect each other if some occupy a public, yet temporary, incapacity to act responsibly and do the important things necessary to stop the spread.
Placing restrictions now is a prudent act but one that should have been central to the COVID19 preventative strategy from the outset. Important aspects to be considered now must be limiting the volume purchased, the hours of opening and the exceptional affordability of cheap, strong alcohol products. Many other countries have taken similar steps at various stages of their response to combatting the COVID crisis.
A crucial measure must be the price. For two years, government have refused to implement minimum unit pricing while Irish society continues to be awash with cheap, strong alcohol, universally available practically at every street corner.
The difficulty now is that any action has the potential to drive ‘panic-buying’ and possibly even greater civil disharmony. However, while the reluctance to tackle our relationship with alcohol is fundamentally flawed, it is never too late to do the right thing.