Why coronavirus could spark booze limits


SOME of the nation's top surgeons have called for restrictions on the amount of alcohol Australians can buy, with reports of a spike in booze-related injuries during the coronavirus pandemic.

Hospital emergency departments are not only dealing with increasing numbers of suspected COVID-19 cases, they are also seeing higher-than-usual presentations of do-it-yourself handyman injuries, as laid-off workers spend more time at home, as well as patients injured from alcohol-related risk-taking.


Royal Australasian College of Surgeons’ trauma committee chair Dr John Crozier.
Royal Australasian College of Surgeons’ trauma committee chair Dr John Crozier.

Royal Australasian College of Surgeons' trauma committee chairman John Crozier said specialists in NSW, where COVID-19 has hit hardest, had noticed a significant jump in the number of trauma cases, particularly involving alcohol.

Dr Crozier, who is based in Sydney, said the recent bushfires, years of drought and the ongoing pandemic had created a "perfect storm" in Australia for an increase in preventable injuries and domestic violence.

"Over the weekend, many of my colleagues reported a noticeable spike in the number of trauma-related presentations," he said.

"Some surgeons informed me that they experienced record numbers of trauma at their hospitals."

Brisbane orthopaedic surgeon Matthew Hope said Queensland specialists were also reporting a rise in home handyman accidents, as well as alcohol-related trauma.

Dr Hope and Dr Crozier both called for governments to consider similar measures to Western Australia, which this week implemented temporary limits on takeaway alcohol purchases.

West Australians are limited to one carton of beer, cider or pre-mixed spirits, three bottles of wine or one litre of spirits per day, or a combination of any two, as part of measures to take pressure off the state's health system.



The restrictions will be reviewed in a fortnight.

"We're aware of what the West Australian Government has done and we are confident as trauma surgeons, in particular, that there will be a reduction of preventative harm from that act," Dr Crozier said.

Dr Hope, the chair of the RACS' Queensland trauma committee, said the WA limit on takeaways was "a considered and sensible approach".

"Currently in hospitals, this is a very stressful and difficult time.," he said.

"We are having to make some huge changes in order to make preparations for an increase in numbers of patients who will be infected with COVID-19.

"We implore that the population as a whole stays at home, stays safe, drinks alcohol sensibly. If individuals are subject to trauma and require admission to hospital, they face attending a hospital which is already under considerable stress."

Health Minister Steven Miles said if Queenslanders were feeling stressed, overwhelmed or worried, they could talk to a mental health professional on 1300 MH CALL 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

"This isn't a time to invite your mates over for a party at home and stock up on alcohol - this is a time to spend at home with your family or the people you live with," he said.








Originally published as Why coronavirus could spark booze limits