In the United States and around the world, bars and other establishments that serve or sell alcohol have become a focus of efforts to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus. Public health experts say drinking, especially in crowds, is not conducive to social distancing.

After the initial round of shutdowns ended, many U.S. states pushed to ease restrictions, in favor of restarting the economy. In recent weeks, however, some of those places, including Arizona, Florida, North Carolina and Texas, have reversed some of those decisions.

Elsewhere in the world, bar closures and bans on selling alcohol have become common. As countries face new surges in case numbers, here are some of the governments that have imposed new alcohol-related restrictions.


Spain, just months ago one of the world’s worst-hit countries, has been gradually reopening, following a regional approach. The economically embattled country was eager to start its lucrative summer tourism season when it lifted a national shutdown in June. But the return of tourists — and the crowded bars and clubs that they flock to — has coincided with a sharp spike in new cases.

The northeastern region of Catalonia, which includes Barcelona, has recorded the largest surge. On Saturday, the regional government announced it was shutting nightclubs, as these kinds of crowded and enclosed venues are ideal for the density-loving virus and have been widely blamed for its spread there.

That didn’t deter young people, who instead gathered in parks, on beaches and in the streets to drink and dance.

So on Tuesday, the regional government raised the stakes: Drinking alcohol anywhere outside of a licensed venue can now result in a fine ranging from 3,000 euros (roughly $3,500) to 15,000 euros ($17,650).


Kenya on Monday banned the sale of alcohol in restaurants and ordered bars to remain closed after cases in the East African country doubled within the past three weeks, when the government began lifting restrictions.

President Uhuru Kenyatta, speaking in a televised address, also extended a nightly curfew for 30 days. Earlier this month, Kenya began easing some economic and domestic travel restrictions. International travel into the country is set to restart on Saturday.

However, cases keep rising. Part of the rise in the caseload is attributed to increased testing. But some Kenyans have called for the government to reimpose widespread shutdowns. Kenyatta has refused. “We cannot have a policeman at every street and in every village to enforce the rules,” he said during his address Monday.

Instead, the government has tailored its policies toward one context in which contact tracers say the virus is likely to spread: alcohol-fueled socializing, particularly among the young.

“My greatest concern at the moment is the aggressive surge of infections among young Kenyans who are in turn infecting their elders,” Kenyatta said Monday. “Contact tracing of the recent surge of infections indicates that our socializing without regard for protective behavior, particularly in environments serving alcohol, is becoming a high-risk factor.”

He continued: “Those are the people who have interpreted the de-escalation of the measures as a green light to pay no heed to the guidance by our health authorities. Their reckless actions are endangering those around them, and our whole country.”

South Africa

South Africa, the continent’s hardest-hit country by confirmed case count, also banned the sale and distribution of alcohol in March, early on in the pandemic. It then lifted the rule in June as the country’s strict shutdown eased, only to reimpose it on July 16, along with a nighttime curfew, as cases again began to climb. After initially flattening the curve, South Africa now has the world’s fifth-highest number of confirmed coronavirus cases.

“There are a number of people who have taken to organizing parties, who have drinking sprees, and some who walk around crowded spaces without wearing masks,” South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said in his announcement.

The response among South Africans has been mixed, the BBC reported.

Ramaphosa said the return of the ban was needed to reduce pressure on hospitals, which were reaching capacity and turning away sick people. The government has cited benefits such as reductions in domestic abuse, violence against women and visits to the hospital for alcohol-fueled accidents.

South African bars and wineries, however, warned that they were on the financial brink. One opposition party, the Economic Freedom Fighters, criticized Ramaphosa for not going further and shutting down more businesses. The decision to just ban alcohol, it said in a statement, was an attempt to distract from other failed pandemic policies.

“Despite this, Ramaphosa continues to ignore pleas to prioritize life over profits, and keeps casinos, restaurants, hotels and domestic air-travel operational in the face of the death of the people of this country,” read the statement posted to Twitter.


Lebanon acted fast to impose shutdowns during its initial coronavirus outbreak. The capital, Beirut, is beloved for its vibrant nightlife and bar scene, but the city’s bars and restaurants remained quiet for much of the spring before those that could still afford to were allowed to reopen in May.

The county’s economy was already struggling before the pandemic, which pushed it into further decline. Nightlife venues, like other small businesses, are struggling to stay afloat, and starting July 30, they are set for a second shutdown.

Hong Kong

Hong Kong had been a pandemic poster child for its early and sustained efforts to contain, and basically beat, the novel coronavirus. Life, from bars to Barre classes, was starting to settle into a new normal.

But in recent weeks, a sudden resurgence has sent alarm bells frantically ringing. Although the number of new cases still remains low compared to hot spots such as the United States, Hong Kong’s government has quickly reimposed restrictions on commerce, movement and gatherings in public places.

From July 15 to Aug. 4 — and possibly even longer, depending on how case numbers go — Hong Kong’s bars and nightclubs are among the venues now closed.


After an outbreak in the city of Danang, Vietnam’s capital, Hanoi, restricted gatherings and closed pubs and bars Wednesday to try to head off a wider crisis, Reuters reported.

“Over 21,000 people returned to Hanoi from Danang will be closely monitored and will undergo rapid testing,” Nguyen Duc Chung, Hanoi’s chairman, said in a statement.