Lockdown and licensed premises: COVID-19 lessons for alcohol policy

Fitzgerald, N., Manca, F., Uny, I., Martin, J. G., O'Donnell, R., Ford, A., Begley, A., Stead, M. and Lewsey, J. (2022) Lockdown and licensed premises: COVID-19 lessons for alcohol policy. Drug and Alcohol Review, 41(3), pp. 533-545. (doi: 10.1111/dar.13413) (PMID:34904313)

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Abstract

Introduction: The COVID-19 pandemic necessitated unprecedented changes in alcohol availability, including closures, curfews and restrictions. We draw on new data from three UK studies exploring these issues to identify implications for premises licensing and wider policy. Methods: (i) Semi-structured interviews (n = 17) with licensing stakeholders in Scotland and England reporting how COVID-19 has reshaped local licensing and alcohol-related harms; (ii) semi-structured interviews (n = 15) with ambulance clinicians reporting experiences with alcohol during the pandemic; and (iii) descriptive and time series analyses of alcohol-related ambulance callouts in Scotland before and during the first UK lockdown (1 January 2019 to 30 June 2020). Results: COVID-19 restrictions (closures, curfews) affected on-trade premises only and licensing stakeholders highlighted the relaxation of some laws (e.g. on takeaway alcohol) and a rise in home drinking as having long-term risks for public health. Ambulance clinicians described a welcome break from pre-pandemic mass public intoxication and huge reductions in alcohol-related callouts at night-time. They also highlighted potential long-term risks of increased home drinking. The national lockdown was associated with an absolute fall of 2.14 percentage points [95% confidence interval (CI) −3.54, −0.74; P = 0.003] in alcohol-related callouts as a percentage of total callouts, followed by a daily increase of +0.03% (95% CI 0.010, 0.05; P = 0.004). Discussion and Conclusions: COVID-19 gave rise to both restrictions on premises and relaxations of licensing, with initial reductions in alcohol-related ambulance callouts, a rise in home drinking and diverse impacts on businesses. Policies which may protect on-trade businesses, while reshaping the night-time economy away from alcohol-related harms, could offer a ‘win–win’ for policymakers and health advocates.

Item Type:Articles
Additional Information:The ExILEnS project is funded by the National Institute for Health Research Public Health Research Programme (project number 15/129/11). The IMPAACT study and analysis of alcohol-related ambulance call-outs during lockdown were funded by the Scottish Government Chief Scientist Office (HIPS 18/57 and STG/20/15 respectively).
Status:Published
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Lewsey, Professor Jim and Manca, Mr Francesco and Begley, Miss Amelie
Authors: Fitzgerald, N., Manca, F., Uny, I., Martin, J. G., O'Donnell, R., Ford, A., Begley, A., Stead, M., and Lewsey, J.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Health and Wellbeing > General Practice and Primary Care
College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Health and Wellbeing > Health Economics and Health Technology Assessment
Journal Name:Drug and Alcohol Review
Publisher:Wiley
ISSN:0959-5236
ISSN (Online):1465-3362
Published Online:13 December 2021
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2021 The Authors
First Published:First published in Drug and Alcohol Review 41(3): 533-545
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
304156MUP EvaluationJames LewseyOffice of the Chief Scientific Adviser (CSO)CSO_HIPS/18/57 IMPAACTHW - Public Health