By Anton Zverev and Olga Popova
MOSCOW, Apr 9 (Reuters) – In recent weeks, Russian businesses have seen a sharp increase in alcohol sales due to consumers’ rush to buy vodka, whiskey and beer at a time when Moscow and other regions have imposed partial confinement measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
In the last week of March, vodka sales at Russia’s largest retail chains increased 31% year-on-year, while whiskey and beer purchases jumped 47% and 25%, respectively, the research company reported. market Nielsen.
President Vladimir Putin extended last week, until April 30, a paid non-working period across Russia, which has so far reported 10,131 cases of coronavirus.
Many Russian companies have asked their employees to work at their homes, some have told them to take unpaid vacations, while others have cut their wages or laid off workers. In Moscow, residents are only allowed to go out to buy food or medicine at a nearby store, get urgent medical help, walk the dog, or take out the trash.
Magnit, one of Russia’s largest food retail chains, said it had experienced double-digit growth in alcohol sales since measures were introduced across the country.
Slow and O’Key said alcohol sales had increased by a third.
The director of a major beverage provider said sales of low-cost imported alcohol had doubled in annual terms since the measures took effect.
“People are buying everything they can: vodka, cognac and beer,” said an employee of a supermarket in the Moscow region as he replenished the shelves with vodka. “They mostly buy what is cheaper.”
Sultan Khamzaev, leader of the Sober Russia movement, which campaigns to reduce alcohol consumption, said the peak in sales was fueled by long vacations, stress, fear of exhaustion, and belief among many Russians about that alcohol offers some protection against the coronavirus.
Excessive alcohol consumption has long been considered a serious health hazard in Russia, especially among men, but has decreased dramatically in the past decade.
Authorities have asked Russians to refrain from self-medicating with alcohol and have indicated that drinking cannot cure COVID-19 or prevent someone from contracting it.
“Trying to treat everything with alcohol and delaying medical treatment definitely makes the situation worse when a patient arrives (at a hospital), and it is impossible to save him anymore,” Health Minister Mikhail Murashko said on television this week.
However, the Ministry of Industry and Commerce has asked the regions not to establish restrictions on the sale of alcohol, citing the possibility of “serious social tensions” occurring if restrictions are imposed.
(Additional report by Rinat Sagdiev and Anastasia Lyrchikova; written by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber. Edited in Spanish by Marion Giraldo and Michael Susin)