Don't drink alcohol if you want to cut your COVID-19 risk: WHO
Nilay Syam
Alcohol can make a person more vulnerable to COVID-19, the WHO has warned. /Luca Bruno/AP

Alcohol can make a person more vulnerable to COVID-19, the WHO has warned. /Luca Bruno/AP

Drinking alcohol not only increases the risk of catching coronavirus but it also complicates the recovery process, the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned.

In a reminder about the danger alcohol poses in exacerbating the number of cases, the WHO rooted for robust measures to regulate consumption.

Alcohol intake is linked with a number of communicable and noncommunicable diseases and mental health disorders, which can make a person more vulnerable to COVID-19. In particular, it compromises the body's immune system and increases the risk of adverse health outcomes.

Frequent consumption can aggravate mental disorders and stoke violence, especially when social distancing and self-isolation is being practiced around the world.

"Fear and misinformation have generated a dangerous myth that consuming high-strength alcohol can kill the COVID-19 virus," the WHO said on Tuesday.

"It does not. Consuming any alcohol poses health risks, but consuming high-strength ethyl alcohol (ethanol), particularly if it has been adulterated with methanol, can result in severe health consequences, including death."

Alcohol is responsible for three million deaths globally each year, a third of which occur in the WHO European region.

Europe records the highest alcohol intake and has the highest prevalence of drinkers in the population. It is the region with the highest alcohol-use disorder and the highest share of deaths caused by alcohol, among all deaths.

The COVID-19 pandemic has killed thousands of people across the world. /Felipe Dana/AP

The COVID-19 pandemic has killed thousands of people across the world. /Felipe Dana/AP

Carina Ferreira-Borges, programme manager, alcohol and illicit drugs programme for WHO/Europe said: "Alcohol is consumed in excessive quantities in the European region, and leaves too many victims.

"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 behaviour on others, including violence."

The international health body emphasised the need to uphold existing regulations and advised against relaxing the rules as the virus continues to infect and kill thousands of people.

The WHO said strong rules need to be complemented by communicating with the public about the downside of consuming hard drinks.

According to a recent survey, the stringent lockdown in the UK has had an effect on people's drinking habits. Although there has been a rise in the number of people taking to the bottle, an even more significant section of the population has cut down or have stopped drinking entirely.

The figures compiled by Opinium on behalf of the charity Alcohol Change UK, found that one in five individuals – 8.6 million adults – were drinking alcohol more regularly while one in three – 14 million – were doing the opposite, having less or paused for the time being.

Six percent of those surveyed said that they had stopped completely.

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