ASEAN May 2020
Ban and heavier penalties for Alcoholic Drinks consumption hurt regional players
Many countries in ASEAN had imposed ban on alcoholic drinks consumption during this pandemic period, whereas some have also imposed heavier penalties for illegal activities related to alcoholic drinking. This indirectly has discouraged consumption of alcoholic drinks and have hurt beer and liquor manufacturers and distributors in the region.

In Vietnam, beer and alcoholic drink players saw a double whammy from the COVID-19 pandemic as well as from the new law Decree No.100/2019/ND-CP enacted in December which had tightened drink driving penalties.
Major beer players like SABECO have already cut their profit forecast by 30-70% this year. This negative situation has motivated the Vietnam Beer, Alcohol and Beverage Association to send its opposition letter to the new Decree to the Prime Minister office.
According to an industry insider, the smaller players will be even more affected by the new decree.
The new Decree No.100/2019/ND-CP stated that drunk car drivers shall be fined between Dong 6 million to Dong 40 million (US$260-US$1,750) instead of the previous fine of about Dong 19 million (US$825) if tests showed that alcohol content exceeds 80mg per 100ml of blood or 0.4mg per litre of breath.
Additionally, their licences shall be revoked for 22-24 months compared to just 4 or 6 months previously. In addition, drunk motorcyclists shall also be imposed fines of Dong 2-8 million (US$85-US$350), and their licences shall be suspended for 22-24 months if tests confirm alcohol content in blood or breath. Drunk cyclists shall be fined up to Dong 600,000 (US$26).

Meanwhile, in Thailand, the alcoholic drinks industry had appealed to the government to lift a ban on alcoholic drink sales which was imposed during the current state of emergency.
Bars across Thailand were closed during a lockdown designed to stem the spread of COVID-19. This situation was exacerbated further when all 76 provinces in Thailand, including Bangkok, started to enforce a 10-day ban on all off-trade alcohol sales with effect from 10 April in an effort to promote social distancing. This ban was further extended till 30 April.
One of the main reasons for this ban was that the Thai authorities were concerned of the upcoming ‘Songkran’ Thai New Year festival which usually attracted merrymaking and heavy drinking, which could result in spike of COVID-19 cases. Songkran was later postponed with many events being cancelled.
The Thai Fruit Wine and Local Spirit Producer Association, the Thailand Bartender Association and the Thai Wine Association had banded together to lobby for the prohibition to be lifted. According to them, the ban had led to illegal smuggling and proliferation of fake liquor products.
On 3 May, the Thai government had decided to ease the ban by allowing alcoholic sales however consumption to be allowed only at home, until the end of May.

Philippines also face similar situation as Thailand, with the government earlier banning liquor consumption during the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) period in the main province of Luzon.
As a result, a group of local liquor manufacturers had asked the national government and their local government units to lift the ban on the sale and purchase of liquor.
Later in May, 6 local authorities within the Metro Manila area namely Pasay, Marikina, Quezon City, Caloocan, San Juan and Mandaluyong had eased the curb and allowed alcoholic drink sales, however consumption can only be done at home, under the modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ). Meanwhile, other cities in Metro Manila will continue with the ban until the end of May, the last day of the MECQ.
To recap, cities in the National Capital Region, except Makati and Taguig, had prohibited the sale, delivery and consumption of alcoholic drinks during the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) to avoid mass gathering which can prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease. In Isabela province, the ban on alcoholic drinks was removed but required that liquor must be consumed at home.

In April, the Malaysian government had revoked its approval for brewers like Heineken and Carlsberg to restart operations after a backlash in the Muslim-majority nation.
The earlier decision to allow Heineken Malaysia Bhd and Carlsberg Brewery Malaysia Bhd to operate during the virtual lockdown had angered some people in the country.
Heineken Malaysia had earlier received approval to resume limited operations with a minimal number of workers during the restrictions which run until mid-April. “We have an obligation to ensure continuous supply of our products, maintain the employment of our people and to contribute positively to the economic recovery of our nation,” according to a statement from Heineken. Apparently, the existing status for brewers in Malaysia depend very much on how fast the lockdown is going to be eased. First was to ease production, then one can even talk on easing consumption of beer in this country.



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