The bottom line is, “In no way will consumption of alcohol protect you from COVID-19 or prevent you from being infected by it.” In fact, it is more likely that alcohol will decrease your defense against the virus.
The WHO factsheet may in many ways represent a response to overall increased alcohol consumption, but perhaps more importantly, misinformation.
As people are staying home, alcohol sales have been noted to increase dramatically. Stay-at-home orders have likely resulted in the use of alcohol as a coping mechanism for anxiety, loneliness, and uncertainty. One professor of social work suggests, “It’s stressful and boring. People are coping with kids at home, spouses, social stress, financial stress, work stress, and the threat of disease. So, it doesn’t surprise me at all that we’ve seen a spike in drinking.” Alcohol is viewed as an accessible over-the-counter stress reliever.
Alcohol as a way to cope, however, is not the only reason some have increased their alcohol use. Reports exist where some misinformed have attempted to prevent COVID-19 by ingesting alcohol. The effect can be tragic, including death.
Some have also resorted to spraying alcohol or chlorine all over their body in a misguided attempt to kill viruses that have already entered the body.
Regarding the actual facts of alcohol, WHO notes that alcohol, particularly higher levels of ingestion and usage, generally weakens the immune system, and hampers the body’s ability to fight against infectious diseases, like COVID-19. This can make one more vulnerable to COVID-19.
Secondarily, in this time where cooperation is needed to follow social distancing guidelines, alcohol may alter your thoughts, judgment, and decision-making—all effects that could lead to conduct not aligned with proper social distancing practices and increased risk for exposure.
Lastly, WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus recommends “during this difficult time, it’s important to continue looking after your physical and mental health.”