Why liquor stores are an essential service amid the coronavirus pandemic

The Ontario government’s inclusion of liquor stores as an essential service permitted to stay open in the time of coronavirus set off a firestorm online.

Many questioned why alcohol sales would be allowed to continue amid a global health emergency.

But with 3.2 per cent of the population having reported alcohol abuse or dependence, and nearly 15,000 deaths attributable to alcohol, Canadians are missing the point — a number of points, according to experts.

“Alcohol dependency can be psychologically and physiologically. If the supply is cut off for that population of people, it can be potentially catastrophic,” said Elaine Hyshka, a researcher and assistant professor with the School of Public Health at the University of Alberta.

“Not everyone with alcohol use disorder who abstains from drinking will experience medical complications, but for the smaller proportion that does, it can be life-threatening,” Hyshka explained.

“They can go into withdrawal, which can cause seizures and other different psychiatric complications.”

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