How “Essential” Is A Drink After A Long Day Of Lockdown?

Some countries have banned alcohol, others say liquor shops are essential services, and one top official even suggested a tipple after another long day trapped at home can be a necessary restorative.

The debate around alcohol and the coronavirus pandemic touches on issues of health, the economy, worker safety — and whether for some a glass of wine may indeed help cope with the stress of seeing their lives upended in the space of weeks.

Police in South Africa is brutally enforcing a ban on all alcohol sales during the shutdown.

But in North America and much of Europe, alcohol stores remain open and busy — often protected under the same regulations that allow business such as supermarkets or pharmacies to operate.

In Canada — where legal cannabis stores have also stayed open — Quebec’s premier Francois Legault justified the decision to keep alcohol sales flowing, a move welcomed by consumers but criticized by a trade union concerned for shop workers.

“To reduce the stress, you have to do some exercise, so have a walk — but sometimes a glass of wine may help,” he said.

Unlike much of the world, Canadians are not under an official lockdown, but they have been urged to stay home and practice social distancing — and that has been enough to send alcool sales soaring.

“Everyone feels like it is Friday or Saturday all the time,” said Catherine Paradis, an analyst at the Canadian Center on Addictions and Substance Use.

Consumers are hitting stores like “in the weeks before Christmas” as well as buying at peak levels online, according to a spokesman for the Societe des alcools du Quebec (SAQ) — a government corporation which last year reported net earnings of CAN$1.146 billion.

Nationwide, Paradis notes that closing stores selling alcohol would cut off a significant source of government revenue — estimated at about 411 Can dollars ($288) annually per person.