Living in a time of one problem

One evening when I was watching the news with my teenage son, he said that 2020 will be in history books and that these are the days he will speak about to his grandchildren one day. He sure will!

These are challenging days when it seems that the whole world is put on hold. Huge problems almost appear to wait for their time to be problems again because we can’t deal with them at the moment. Global warming is expecting its time to be the biggest problem again. No, it hasn’t left anywhere, but we are too occupied to think about it right now.

It almost looks that to talk about any other issue at the moment would be a bit inappropriate. When Eurocare, our European umbrella organisation, published a call for a ban on alcohol sponsorship of sport, Consumer Choice Center wrote: “While the world is battling the Coronavirus crisis, the European Alcohol Policy Alliance (EUROCARE) is facing a different goliath: alcohol sponsorship… in sports? A head-scratcher of sorts, especially given that the sports industry will fall on hard times this year if COVID-19 drags on. With cancelled events and games, cutting the sports industry off from vital sponsorship income is cruel at best.”

So, one of the challenges COVID-19 crises have created is the inability to deal with all these other problems that are still there. Alcohol doesn’t just remain to be one of the biggest social challenges of our societies. It has direct links to the current crises. As WHO Europe reminded us all “at times of lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic, alcohol consumption can exacerbate health vulnerability, risk-taking behaviours, mental health issues and violence.” WHO Europe also reminded that “alcohol compromises the body’s immune system and increases the risk of adverse health outcomes. Therefore, people should minimize their alcohol consumption at any time, and particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

No, it’s not the main culprit in this context, but as always, alcohol can make things worse.

As an article in “Forensic Science International: Reports” concludes, family violence is a particular concern. “Though necessary to slow the spread of the novel Coronavirus (Covid-19), actions such as social-distancing, sheltering in-place, restricted travel, and closures of key community foundations are likely to dramatically increase the risk for family violence around the globe. Alcohol abuse, a commonly reported risk factor for family violence, has been linked to an accumulation of stressful events and a lack of social support (both likely occurring as a result of Covid-19).”

Countries are responding individually. Greenland banned the sale of alcohol in a bid to reduce violence against children during the period of confinement over the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. South Africa also banned the sale and transportation of alcohol during the coronavirus lockdown. UK Government, on the other hand, ensured that peoples access to alcohol isn’t disrupted during the covid-19 crisis, by adding off-licences to the list of “essential retailers,” joining pharmacies and high street banks.

This crisis will end eventually, or if the virus stays as part of our new normal, we will learn to live with it. And then our societies will rediscover that there are other, permanent, problems that we have to deal with.

Lauri Beekmann,
Executive director, NordAN