COVID 19 and Trends of Illegal Alcohol

Illegal alcohol can be identified by many names in Sri Lanka such as Kasippu, Goda, and moonshine, Spirits local, illicit, or unrecorded alcohol. Most of the illegal alcohol beverages are not produced within a legal setting. Also, those are not subject to the same standards of quality and purity as in the legal alcoholic beverages production. Higher prices in legal products may cause to increased consumption of potentially dangerous kinds of non-commercial and illicitly brewed alcohol with the country. Illegal alcohol considers one of the key risks for poor public health. The use of illegal alcohol has a serious effect on health, development and poverty. This can destroy the lives of individuals, crash families and damage the societal image of a country. The consumption of illegal alcohol largely contributes to the global burden of disease and it is listed as the first leading risk factor for premature deaths and disabilities in most of the developing countries.

The production and sale of the illegal alcoholic product is not an unfamiliar thing for Sri Lankan people. Over the past few years, reasonable numbers of incidents in respect of illegal alcoholic products have been noticed across the country. According to the Sri Lanka Excise department, the illegal drug consumption in Sri Lanka has been decreased and the illegal alcohol consumption in Sri Lanka has been increased during the Corona outbreak curfew. During the period most of the detection cases reported from Matara District.

The following bar charts, it indicates that, from 1st of January to 12th of May 2020, gradually increases the illegal alcohol detective cases in Matara District, most of the cases reported regarding possession of illegal alcohol such Kasippu, Goda and spirits. But in the vice versa, from 1st of January to 12th of May 2020, gradually decreases the illegal drug detective cases in Matara District, most of the cases reported regarding possession of cannabis illegally.

Figure 01: Illegal alcohol detected cases from 01.01.2020 to 12.05.2020 in Matara District (PUML)

Source: Excise Station Matara


Figure 02: Illegal drugs detected cases from 01.01.2020 to 12.05.2020 in Matara (UPG)


Source: Excise Station Matara


During this situation, it is figured that illegal liquor usage is in an increasing nature. It was identified that such a thing could contribute to the spread of COVID 19 as social distancing is not applicable under this kind of circumstances. The main reason caused for this kind of situation, is prohibiting the sale and distribution of liquor under the current curfew stage. As a result of it, according to the Excise Department, the production, sale, complains and detection of the illegal alcoholic has been remarkably increased during this period.

Figure 03: comparatively analyze Illegal alcohol and drugs detestation cases (UMA), (PUDS), (PUML), (UPT), (UPG) of Before COVID 19 and Within COVID 19 outbreak curfew Periods in Matara District

Source: Excise Station Matara

Because of the curfew, there were barriers to transport illegal drugs within the country that is why reported illegal drug cases are less within the COVID 19 period (March–April 2020) than before (January–February 2020). That is a good tendency. But as the consequence of that, people routinely shifted to illegal alcohol and they try to brew them by them selves as individuals or groups within their home or their garden. This completely affects the security of their health and in this way; it effortlessly helps to spread the virus. Already we have that kind of example as Suduwella case.

National Authority on Tobacco and Alcohol Act, No.27 of 2006 (NATA Act), Excise Ordinance No.08 of 1912, Sri Lanka National Policy for the Prevention and Control of Drug Abuse, 2005 and Sri Lanka Police Ordinance (Amended in 1984) are the illegal alcohol related policies and legislations that perform in Sri Lanka. Over the past few months, The Excise Department of Sri Lanka has made a high number of raids in respect to illicit alcoholic products. Sri Lanka Police, Special Task Force has also joined this operation to strengthen the law enforcements in respect of this illegal alcoholic consumption.

During the prevailing crisis, Illegal drug users could be caused for devastating consequences, due to their risky habits or substitute unfamiliar drugs within COVID 19 period. While Indian government decided to establish home delivery service of alcohol within this outbreak period, Sri Lankan government having recognized the impact alcohol can have, introduced reasonable limits on alcohol to prevent alcohol related problems, especially regarding public health in Sri Lanka.  This is an excellent move, we have to encourage the government to keep this restriction in place at least until the COVID 19 pandemic is over. Other jurisdictions should move to detect more illegal alcohol cases as well as illegal drug cases within the country to secure it.


*Udeshika Jayasekara is a Researcher at the Institute of National Security Studies Sri Lanka (INSSSL), national think tank under the Ministry of Defence. The opinion expressed is her own and not necessarily reflective of the institute. This article was originally published by Ceylon Today.


Department of Excise. “Monthly Illegal Alcohol Detection Report”. 2020.

Police Narcotics Bureau. “Monthly Drug Seizures Report”.2020

Research Division, National Dangerous Drugs Control Board. “Drug Related Information Monthly Report”.  2020

Sri Lanka Navy. “Sri Lanka Navy - Sea Ops”. April 22, 2020.