Many Icelanders are turning to an age-old solution in these anxiety-inducing times: alcohol. But as COVID-19 has tightened its grip on Iceland, noisy crowds gathered outside downtown bars have been replaced with solemn two-metre-spaced queues outside Vínbúðin stores. Figures released last week have revealed that ÁTVR, the state-owned alcohol monopoly’s sales, are on the rise.
ÁTVR’s sales of alcohol last month were 8.2% higher than they were last March, Fréttablaðið reports. The last two weeks of last month saw a particular upswing in sales according to Sigrún Ósk Sigurðardóttir, Deputy CEO of ÁTVR, suggesting a correlation between the number of sales and the worsening of the COVID-19 epidemic as the month progressed. Sales of red wine increased by 25.6% and white wine by 15.6%. However, non-spiced liquor and vodka sales saw a 2.6% dip, so perhaps there’s evidence that Icelanders are drinking more often, but not more heavily.
Experts across the world are concerned about the negative potential social impacts of the pandemic, including an expected rise in alcohol abuse. However, Sigrún was keen to point out that an increase in ÁTVR sales might not mean an increase in national alcohol consumption as many bars have temporarily closed in recent weeks. The numbers could indicate an increase in drinking at home, rather than an increase in drinking generally. Sales may also be inflated by people stockpiling and panic-buying.
Keeping Vínbúðin stores open during the pandemic has been a key concern for ÁTVR. Sigrún told Fréttablaðið that the ÁTVR has “a dual staff group” in case of an outbreak of COVID-19 among employees. To protect workers and customers ÁTVR has encouraged shoppers to visit outside of peak times and is working hard to ensure an adequate distance is kept between people inside their stores.
As ever, those looking for more information or advice should go to the Icelandic Government’s excellent COVID-19 help page.
Tune into our daily COVID-Cast for a deeper dive into the day’s developments.
Note: Due to the effect the Coronavirus is having on tourism in Iceland, it’s become increasingly difficult for the Grapevine to survive. If you enjoy our content and want to help the Grapevine’s journalists do things like eat and pay rent, please consider joining our High Five Club.
Buy subscriptions, t-shirts and more from our shop right here!