Balance, the North East Alcohol Office, is launching a major new campaign, believed to be the first of its kind in the UK, to address rising alcohol consumption during COVID-19.

Alcohol – Not the Answer is targeted at people drinking above the chief medical officer’s low risk guidelines, and who research shows are likely to be drinking even more during the pandemic. The Royal College of Psychiatrists estimated in September that over 8.4 million people were drinking at higher risk, up from just 4.8 million in February.

The campaign will underline the broad range of physical and mental health problems alcohol can cause, and in particular a key message from the World Health Organization that alcohol can weaken the immune system and reduce the ability to cope with infectious diseases, such as COVID-19. It will highlight practical advice to cut down, encourage people to try an alcohol units quiz, and to download the PHE Drink Free Days app.