Bay of Plenty doctors are calling for a ban on online alcohol sales during the Covid-19 lockdown after seeing a spike in family violence and further strains on the public health system.
Some say the online sale of alcohol was "by no means" essential and feared intoxicated people posed a huge risk to public health during the crisis.
But a New Zealand alcohol council says people were buying less booze with limited retail options and were being reminded to continue to drink responsibly.
Alcohol is listed on the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment website as an essential service that allowed the online sale and contactless delivery of alcohol.
On Monday, 12 Tauranga doctors signed a letter to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern urging an immediate halt to the harmful drug, alcohol, delivered to people's doorsteps.
Mount Maunganui GP Tony Farrell, who specialises in addiction, signed the letter and said doctors were "furious" about the online availability of alcohol.
Farrell said he had already seen a person relapse after being beaten up since the lockdown was ordered and had heard from orthopedic surgeons and other colleagues of an increase in domestic violence.
"The Government's gone and allowed online sales to be delivered to people's door of a drug that's been well associated with family violence."
He said intoxicated people posed a huge risk to public health during the crisis.
"They go out of their social bubbles, they take risks, they get injured, lower their immunity."
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Rotorua's Ranolf Medical Centre GP Harry Pert said alcohol delivery was "by no means essential" and he put alcohol in the same category as high-risk mountain biking.
"We're not taking up activities that could lead to injury and use up scarce hospital resources, and I feel the same about alcohol.
"I think we can cope without home deliveries of booze for a few weeks."
Pert said alcohol was already a stressful situation in some households and in times of stress, alcohol use increased.
Alcohol Healthwatch executive director Dr Nicki Jackson said online access to "New Zealand's most harmful drug" was non-essential.
She urged the Government to consider suspending online alcohol sales during alert level 4 or cap the number of online sellers and implement tighter limits on the amount that can be purchased.
"Now is a crucial time to prioritise the mental health of New Zealanders and reduce stress on our frontline police, health and social services."
A Ministry of Health spokeswoman said the current policy reflected the cross-government position and Alcohol Healthwatch's concerns had been noted.
New Zealand Alcohol Beverages Council executive director Bridget MacDonald said violence was never acceptable but can be caused by a number of factors and "drawing an illusionary causative line between alcohol and violence is somewhat simplistic".
"The current Covid-19 crisis is causing unprecedented disruption to our lives and exacerbating matters such as social deprivation, financial, health and personal issues.
"The stress from businesses and schools closing, job losses, and living under challenging circumstances will no doubt be affecting people at this time."
However, MacDonald said harmful drinking can exacerbate situations and the council was asking people who choose to drink to "drink normal" and follow the Ministry of Health drinking guidelines.
"Most importantly, we need to keep ourselves and those around us in a safe and social space."
MacDonald said people were actually buying less alcohol with limited retail options and bars and off-licences closed.
"Conservative figures indicate that total alcohol sales in New Zealand are down approximately 40 per cent compared to the same time last year."
MacDonald said people were in an "unprecedented situation of uncertainty and stress" but "we need to continue to be responsible if we choose to drink".
"New Zealanders should shop as they normally would, as there is no need to panic buy or stockpile alcohol. Lockdown is also not an excuse to overindulge ... We need to continue to make sensible decisions around alcohol."
The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment was unable to respond by deadline and directed the Bay of Plenty Times to the list of essential services on the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment's website.
Is alcohol essential?
The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment website listed the online sale and contactless delivery of alcohol, including spirits, under a list of essential services.
The conditions of the sale was licensees that had existing delivery operations before level 4 could continue with their delivery businesses.
Those that did not but now wished to start delivery should discuss their plans with their local licensing body.
They need to be able to verify the age of the buyer, and alcohol cannot be delivered between 11pm and 6am.
Spirits are limited to three bottles.
Where to get help:
• If it's an emergency and you feel that you or someone else is at risk, call 111.
• If you've ever experienced sexual assault or abuse and need to talk to someone call the confidential crisis helpline Safe to Talk on: 0800 044 334 or text 4334.
• Alternatively contact your local police station
• If you have been abused, remember it's not your fault.