South Africa Reintroduces Alcohol Sales Ban to Fight COVID-19
As COVID-19 cases spike in South Africa after an initial period of relaxation of lockdown measures, the government has reintroduced the alcohol sales ban to fight the coronavirus spread and save as many lives as possible.
As Movendi International previously reported, South Africa successfully implemented an alcohol sales ban from the beginning of April until the end of May. The sales ban led to a drastic decrease in hospital admissions for alcohol-related diseases and injuries and a drop in trauma patients in hospitals. This in turn contributed to more hospital beds and medical personnel being freed up to treat COVID-19 patients.
However, at the start of the third phase of Lockdown in South Africa and after a two months long successful ban on alcohol sales, from June 1st the alcohol sales ban was lifted.
Immediately hospitals started being flooded with patients due to alcohol-related causes. The situation in hospitals since lifting the alcohol ban was likened to a ‘nightmare’. As alcohol sales restarted alcohol-related injuries filling up the emergency departments. The question was whether the government would continue bow to alcohol industry pressures or act in the interest of communities and society at large burdened by alcohol harm.
Public health before Big Alcohol’s profits
Now, COVID-19 cases have started to spike again in South Africa. The country has the highest number of reported COVID-19 cases in the African region and is now recording the fourth-largest daily increase in new cases worldwide. The health ministry reported 12,058 new coronavirus cases on Sunday, bringing the total to 276,242. Deaths rose by 108 to 4,079.
In an attempt to fight the virus better and save as many lives as possible the South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced the reintroduction of the alcohol sales ban, a night time curfew between 9:00 PM and 4:00 AM, starting today, July 13, and the legal requirement for citizens to wear masks in public.
The reintroduction of the alcohol sales ban is a move that rejects alcohol industry lobbying and pressures and clearly puts the public interest before private profits.
President Ramaphosa said these measures were necessary as the country remained under level 3 of the risk-adjusted national lockdown. He said returning to higher levels would have a devastating impact on the economy, according to IOL.
The President has said that the country can not afford for its hospitals and clinics to be burdened with avoidable alcohol-related injuries, in a televised address to the nation.
This is a fight to save every life, and we need to save every bed,” said President Ramaphosa, as per Reuters.
There is now clear evidence that the resumption of alcohol sales has resulted in substantial pressure being put on hospitals, including trauma and ICU units, due to motor vehicle accidents, violence as well as trauma that is alcohol-induced,” said President Ramaphosa, as per Sowetan Live.
The government has moved swiftly to gazette regulations putting into immediate effect a ban on alcohol sales and the introduction of a nighttime curfew. The amended regulations were released by the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs minutes after President Cyril Ramaphosa addressed the nation on Sunday night. The gazette was signed by Cogta minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and has thus put the alcohol sales ban in place officially.
Regulation 44 reads (see page 7):
The sale, dispensing and distribution of liquor is prohibited. The transportation of liquor is prohibited, except where the transportation of liquor is (a) in relation to alcohol required for industries producing hand sanitisers, disinfectants, soap or alcohol for industrial use and household cleaning products, (b) for export purposes, or (c) from manufacturing plants to storage facilities.”
It continues that no special or events liquor licences will be considered.
Ramaphosa added that many of these incidents associated with alcohol took place at night. A curfew, with effect from Monday, July 13, will be in place from 9pm to 4am daily.
The World Health Organization has advised to restrict access to alcohol during COVID-19 for several reasons. These include:
- Alcohol weakens the immune system and makes people more susceptible to infections such as COVID-19;
- Alcohol use is linked with many NCDs such as cancer, cardiovascular disease and liver disease, which increase the risk of death from COVID-19; and
- Diseases and injuries related to alcohol increase the burden on the already overburdened healthcare system and emergency services which would lead to more loss of life.