Mike Sonko, the governor of the Nairobi, the capital city of Kenya, is facing backlash after he included bottles of Hennessy in coronavirus care packages.
CNN reported that Sonko confirmed Tuesday that the alcohol would be part of the COVID-19 care packages that were given to residents at a food donation site. He claimed that the small bottles of the cognac would be a good “throat sanitizer” since there was alcohol in them.
“I think from the research conducted by the World Health Organization and various organizations, it has been believed that alcohol plays a major role in killing the coronavirus,” Sonko said in a video.
“We will have some small bottles of Hennessy in the food packs that we will be giving to our people…” – Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko
Note: WHO warns that drinking alcohol does not protect you against COVID-19 and can be dangerous pic.twitter.com/vuSuVAb8dy
— Citizen TV Kenya (@citizentvkenya) April 14, 2020
Despite Sonko’s claims, the World Health Organization has repeatedly maintained that alcohol would actually make a person more vulnerable to the pandemic. They argued that access should be restricted.
“At times of lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic, alcohol consumption can exacerbate health vulnerability, risk-taking behaviours, mental health issues and violence,” WHO stated earlier in the week.
“WHO/Europe reminds people that drinking alcohol does not protect them from COVID-19, and encourages governments to enforce measures which limit alcohol consumption.”
The organization also noted that alcohol was already responsible for so many deaths and would simply lead to more.
“During the COVID-19 pandemic, we should really ask ourselves what risks we are taking in leaving people under lockdown in their homes with a substance that is harmful both in terms of their health and the effects of their behaviour on others, including violence,” Carina Ferreira-Borges, Programme Manager, Alcohol and Illicit Drugs Programme, WHO/Europe, said.
Sonko, who arrested last year on corruption charges, was also met with pushback by Hennessy. The brand told Nairobi News that their product did not help treat COVID-19.
“Hennessy would like to stress that the consumption of our brand or any other alcoholic beverage does not protect against the virus,” a statement signed by country manager, Anne-Claire Delamarre, read in part.
As of Wednesday, there were 246 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and eleven deaths in the East African nation.