Health boss warns against turning to alcohol during lockdown

Drinkers should limit their alcohol consumption amid concerns about a rise in booze and drug-fuelled domestic violence since lockdown measures were introduced, the European director of the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said.

Dr Hans Kluge cited alcohol-based harm among the potential legacies of the coronavirus pandemic, saying that job losses, stress and fear could “hound us for years”.

And he urged people not to consider turning to alcohol as the UK Government prepares to announce possible easing of some lockdown measures.

Speaking during a WHO Europe briefing, Dr Kluge said: “Yes, this (reducing alcohol consumption during lockdown) is definitely one of the recommendations, definitely to limit it.

“Everyone has to look at their own situation. The Covid-19 response is an additional moment to quit smoking but this has to be looked at in a broad atmosphere of how the person is feeling.

“But to put it short, alcohol is a very bad adviser.”

Last month, research by addiction charity Alcohol Change UK found 35% of those surveyed said they reduced their intake or stopped drinking all together during lockdown, compared with 21% who said they were now drinking more often.

Around 14% of those surveyed reported taking alcohol-free days and 9% said they were keeping an eye on how much alcohol they buy.

Dr Kluge said the restrictive measures of lockdown had “understandably bred stress and anxiety”, and added the WHO was “troubled” by reports from the UK, Ireland and some other European countries that this had led to an increase in violence.

Domestic abuse charities have reported a surge in demand for their services, with a 25% increase in calls to the National Domestic Abuse helpline since lockdown measures came into force on March 23.

Dr Kluge said: “With job losses, rising alcohol-based harm and drug use, stress and fear, the legacy of this pandemic could hound us for years.

“So much related to Covid-19 has been unparalleled and is outside our control and understanding.

“But with solidarity we can prevent violence from blighting the lives of generations.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to provide an update on current lockdown measures at the weekend.

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