Could the COVID-19 pandemic trigger a second Prohibition?

another prohibition coronavirus pandemic
Photo via Kevin Burkett/Flickr (CC BY SA 2.0)

Drinking bans across the world have been triggered by COVID-19. However, experts say it is both inadvisable and unlikely that the pandemic will cause another Prohibition of alcohol in the U.S. 

One of the most notable drinking bans instituted as a result of the coronavirus was in South Africa, where the sale and dispensary of alcohol was banned for several weeks. As did Thailand and India. Kenya also banned alcohol for 30 days. In October, Scotland banned indoor drinking for 16 days, and Germany shut down bars and restaurants for a period of four weeks later that month. Bali also might have to stop selling alcohol, which worries locals as they try to rebound from their pandemic economy.

For South Africa, the ban was driven by a desire to reduce the number of alcohol-related trauma admissions to the hospital. Those admissions fell by 60% during the ban. This allowed healthcare facilities and workers to focus on care and capacity for COVID-19 patients. 

Experts point to the first exercise in Prohibition undertaken by the U.S. in the 1920s, citing it as an example of the increase in criminal activity which results from making the sale of alcohol illegal. In South Africa, the ban caused protests from industry workers who were suddenly without work in a pandemic which has caused a global economic crisis. By October, the Telegraph, a U.K. newspaper, was calling coronavirus alcohol bans “alarming” and “completely pointless.”

The closure of bars has led to increases in sales at liquor stores in the U.S., causing concern regarding increased alcohol consumption, given that people tend to drink more at home. Alcoholics Anonymous has also been affected by the pandemic. An observable increase in people seeking treatment for alcohol misuse occurred in areas most strongly affected by the coronavirus, Department of Health and Human Services official Dr. Elinore McCance-Katz said, via USA Today

Meanwhile, the wine industry continues to suffer because of the pandemic. As are champagne makers.

Even a temporary ban on the drinking of alcohol in bars was instituted in Florida, though Gov. Ron DeSantis in September lifted the ban. That led Dr. Anthony Fauci, the face of the Trump administration’s coronavirus response team, to say the state could be “really asking for trouble.”

Dr. George F. Koob, the director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, told the newspaper, “Any increases in alcohol use during the pandemic could be a cause for concern, particularly if the increases stem from an attempt to cope with negative emotions associated with the crisis.”

Sources: CNN, USA Today, NWI Times, BBC

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