The Government’s decision last week to permit the sale of alcohol during the ongoing quarantine curfew has been opposed by the Sri Lanka Medical Association (SLMA), who argue that this will result in people gathering at alcohol selling points – a violation of curfew regulations.
The SLMA, in a letter dated 19 August and addressed to Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa, said this could also lead to domestic violence, child abuse and road accidents. “Some may also organise alcohol-centred gatherings at their homes, increasing the likelihood of further spreading the highly transmissible strain of the COVID-19 virus that is circulating in the country,” the SLMA wrote.
This would result in an added burden on the health sector and the Sri Lanka Police and will also contribute to hindering the efforts of the Government to ensure that families in need have enough food by distributing money directly to those in need, the SLMA added.
“As you are aware, scientific studies have also shown that the economic costs of alcohol in Sri Lanka far exceed the revenue collected. Therefore, when all aspects are considered, this move will have an extremely negative impact, not only on the health and social aspects, but on the economic aspect as well,” the letter read.
The SLMA also drew focus to the online sale of alcohol, which could be in violation of the National Authority on Tobacco and Alcohol Act (NATA) No. 26 of 2006, which expressly prohibits advertising alcohol on the internet.
“Internet sales will also circumvent the age, time and place restrictions mandated for alcohol sales in this country through the Excise Ordinance and the NATA Act,” the SLMA said.
Explaining that providing easy access to alcohol will amplify many health, social and economic problems both the Government and the people can ill afford, the SLMA said: “Therefore, we earnestly request the Government to take steps to immediately discontinue sale of alcohol and not to provide permission for internet sales of alcohol, which will make matters worse for all Sri Lankans already suffering from many hardships due to COVID-19 pandemic.”
Meanwhile, Deputy Director of Health Services Dr. Hemantha Herath refused to respond to a question on who approved the reopening of liquor stores, saying he could not comment on the matter as there were ongoing legal proceedings.