Coronavirus: Psychologist warns Kiwis not to drink too much in self-isolation

A psychologist is warning people not to fall into the habit of drinking too much while in self-isolation.

There were reports on Monday of people panic-buying alcohol after the Government announced the country would be raised to alert level 4 from Wednesday night. 

Although supermarkets will remain open during what will be at least four weeks in lockdown, many people have flocked to supermarkets and bottle shops determined to stock up before bunkering up.

The New Zealand Alcohol Beverages Council has urged for calm after some bottle shops were subjected to mass panic-buying. One bottle store chain even reported a 1800 percent spike in sales following the lockdown announcement.  

But Victoria University psychologist Dougal Sutherland says excessive drinking while in close proximity to others could be a recipe for disaster.

"We should be pretty cautious around alcohol use," he told The AM Show on Tuesday.

"Moderation is really key, and there's no really strong need that I can think of for people to be drinking spirits. You really don't want to mix alcohol with people who are cramped in together.

"I think those two things would not be a good mix at all."

Sutherland said it was important for people to go into their period of self-isolation with the right mindset.

Despite the terminology, he also stressed people are being encouraged to physically distance themselves from others, not social distance themselves.

"I really don't like the term 'social isolation'," Sutherland said. "I think we should be using something like 'quarantine' because if you say to people that they're going to isolate then don't surprised if they feel isolated.

"You can be physically distant but socially connected".

Sutherland also expressed concern that self-isolation had the "potential to cause anxiety and depression" for some people, especially those already prone to such feelings.

So far, there have been 155 confirmed and probably cases of COVID-19 in New Zealand. Of those, four cases are presumed to be caused by community transmission.

The move to place the country in lockdown was spurred by concerns community transmission could occur on a scale like that of Italy, where health services are crippled and thousands of people have died.

Although the lockdown here will have massive economic effects, experts say the long-term human and economic toll would be far worse if the outbreak was left to get out of control.