Pernod Ricard India pledges Rs 15 cr to support COVID-19 fight

Pernod Ricard has pledged Rs 15 crore ($2 million) to boost healthcare facilities across India as it prepares to battle the coronavirus outbreak.

Its donation will initially pay for more than 45 Swiss-made ventilators and 100 ICU beds in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Bengal, Delhi, Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Jharkhand. More ventilators and ICU beds will be set up in other states in the days ahead.

The Imperial Blue and Royal Stag supplier will also provide hand sanitizers, masks and personal protective equipment for medical personnel involved in providing essential services.

“We believe that urgent emergency resources need to be deployed to fight the COVID-19 crisis,” said Thibaut Cuny, managing director at Pernod Ricard India. “We are committed to fill the demand-supply gap for critical care equipment like respiratory systems, ventilators, increase quantity of ICU beds, at the state government ICUs, and be prepared to serve and save critical cases.”

India went into an abrupt lockdown on March 24 in a desperate bid to halt the spread of the COVID-19 outbreak. Its 1.3 billion people were given just hours to return home and told to “forget what going out means” for the next 21 days. 

Bars and drinks retailers were forced to close. In some states, the ban on alcohol led to a spike in suicides. In the first week of the lockdown, there were seven suicides in Kerala as dependent drinkers were unable to buy alcohol. That trend has continued.

Three men in Tamil Nadu’s Chengalpattu died on Sunday after they were unable to procure alcohol due to the lockdown and ended up drinking a mixture of paint and varnish instead.

Reports have emerged of vendors charging exorbitant prices for whisky and cigarettes on the black market since the lockdown was imposed.

There have been 4,314 confirmed COVID-19 cases in India and 118 deaths so far.

Last month, Pernod Ricard warned that operating profit would take a 20% hit as a result of the coronavirus crisis. However, it said its solid financial position would allow it to ride out the storm.

“The environment has very significantly deteriorated due to the COVID-19 outbreak,” said chairman and chief executive Alexandre Ricard. “We are encouraged to see that, thanks to the implementation of strong measures, China appears to be starting to make a gradual recovery.

“While we cannot predict the duration and extent of the impact, we remain confident in our strategy.”