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Off-licences have been added to the government’s list of essential UK retailers allowed to stay open during the coronavirus pandemic.

The list was updated on Wednesday amid reports that supermarkets were selling out of some beers and wines. It appears that alcohol is being snapped up across the UK as panic buyers seek to soften the blow of enforced isolation. However, health experts are advising against stockpiling alcohol and warn that drinking depletes the body’s immune capacity.

The list of essential retailers put together by the Cabinet Office now includes ‘off-licences and licensed shops selling alcohol, including those within breweries’. However, pubs and restaurants have been required to close under the new restrictions. The Head of Wetherspoons’ pub chain, Tim Martin, has said that most of the chain’s trade had gone to supermarkets. Breweries and pubs are now lobbying the government for blanket permission to launch takeaway alcohol services.

Exactly what qualifies as an ‘essential business’ is causing confusion in some quarters. The Director General of the CBI business organisation, Carolyn Fairbairn, says many companies “do not know whether to stay open or to close”. She is asking the government to clarify the situation.

The list of ‘essential retailers’ now includes:

  • Supermarkets and other food shops
  • Pharmacies
  • Off-licences and licensed shops selling alcohol, including those within breweries
  • Petrol stations
  • Newsagents
  • Bicycle shops
  • Home and hardware stores
  • Launderettes and dry cleaners
  • Garages
  • Pet shops
  • Post offices
  • Banks

AlphaBiolabs can provide a number of alcohol testing solutions including continuous alcohol monitoring. For more information, please call 0333 600 1300 or email us at


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