THE public may not own up to drinking more to pollsters, but alcohol sales across the UK have shot up by at least a third during the coronavirus pandemic.

A survey by Opinium a fortnight ago claimed that while some have increased their consumption of alcohol, one in three (14m) were taking steps to manage or stop drinking.

But new data shows that that has not reduced our desire to buy the stuff.

Analysis say alcohol is one of the products which has seen the largest increase in demand since the lockdown, with sales rising by 31.4% in volume in March alone.

It means an extra £300m was spent on booze in the UK in March, taking the monthly total to around £1.2 billion.

And according to the latest analysis by IWSR Drinks Market Analysis, the off-trade in the UK is up by 20% and ecommerce is up 50%.

"The growth potential of ecommerce in the UK, however, is constrained by capacity issues and catering to the surge in demand, especially within general grocery ecommerce which leads in the UK," it said.

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"The closure of the on-trade in the UK has meant 40% of UK trade has been removed from the market.

"In the medium term, the ban on mass gatherings – sports events, music festivals, etc. – will make their mark on the most mobile of drinks categories.

"There are early signs that some UK consumers may become conscious of over-indulging in alcohol at home and may resort to some degree of moderation, be that lowering frequency, swapping to lower ABV drinks or introducing some no/low solutions to their product mix."

The new evaluation uncovers how coronavirus is transforming the country's relationship with alcohol and shopping.

Lockdown adviser Professor Eyal Winter has suggested Brits were "starving" for pubs, and the Government would bring in a drink limit to help them stay safe.

The Lancaster University academic insisted social distancing would be required if pubs reopen and he added: “One of the most important things is to have a programme, to say, ‘in two weeks we will do such and such’.

“You need to make the rules crystal clear, and to explain to the public the rationale behind each one of them.”

The Beer and Pub Association says putting restrictions on pubs would be "a step too far".

The increase in alcohol purchasing is also presenting a significant problem with regards to the potential spread of coronavirus in store. With supermarkets now representing one of the primary spread points for Covid-19, the sale of alcohol poses a significant problem, as additional approval from staff is required.

Staff members are subjected to close contact with the customer, and for shoppers using the self-checkout, both parties are required to interact with the touchscreen, negating the important social distancing and contactless shopping measures.

Will Broome, chief executive of white-label retail app Ubamarket, is one of many industry commentators that believes that retail technology holds the answer to truly contactless shopping.

Ubamarket says it is one of a number of firms that are pioneering a way to allow customers to make in-app payments and verify age through the touch of a mobile screen through formal Home Office pilots.

It makes use of Yoti anonymous age estimation technology which has previously helped the BBC investigate a social media trend where people make money by selling their nude photos and videos.

A Ubamarket spokemsan said that self-checkouts for retailers presents a "serious concern" for them and the protection of their teams and customers.

"However, with retail technology, where a customer only needs to touch their own mobile phone by incorporating in-app payments and age verification, the whole process can be safer for everyone without risking any illegal sales," said a spokesman.