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False claim: UK’s National Health Service (NHS) bans alcohol consumption and sales in effort to combat Covid-19

An image shared by UK social media users (example here) claims that a strict ban on the consumption, sale and purchase of alcohol has been issued “with immediate effect” by the UK's National Health Service (NHS). The claim is made in an apparent text statement, entitled “Coronavirus: public information” which carries the HM Government logo and NHS logo at the top. This document is not authentic.

The fake statement reads as follows: “A strict ban of alcohol has been issued with immediate effect. Simon Stevens, chief executive of the N.H.S has ordered a ban on consumption of alcohol after his team have discovered that the toxin lowers immunity. This means that all sales have stopped from 29/03/2020. It falls under an emergency health legislation, which means that it is now illegal to purchase, sell and consume alcohol. Anyone caught breaching the new law will be severely sanctioned to protect everyone against the battle of Covid-19.”

Neither the NHS nor the British Government have banned the sale, purchase or consumption of alcohol – although UK residents are not currently able to drink at pubs or bars. On March 23, 2020, the government ordered the closure of “restaurants and public houses, wine bars or other food and drink establishments including within hotels and members’ clubs”, although food delivery and takeaway can remain operational. All retail outlets were also ordered to close, however “off-licences and licenced shops selling alcohol, including those within breweries” were permitted to remain open under the “notable exceptions” guidance. Alcohol can also be purchased from UK supermarkets, which also remain open. The full guidance is here .

The UK Government’s complete guidance regarding the coronavirus outbreak can be found www.gov.uk/coronavirus .

The NHS guidance around coronavirus can be found here .

The NHS has previously published advice around the long-term misuse of alcohol, defined as "drinking large amounts of alcohol for many years". This advice notes that “long-term alcohol misuse can weaken your immune system, making you more vulnerable to serious infections” (here) .

VERDICT

False: this document is not authentic. People in the UK may still buy, purchase and consume alcohol, despite the closure of bars and pubs.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact checking work  here .

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