The Kenyan government has decided to limit alcohol sales in an effort to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus in the country. An on-trade alcohol sales ban has been instituted as part of other physical distancing measures.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta announced the ban of the sale of alcohol in eateries and restaurants as well as the extension of the curfew for another 30 days in order to halt a steep rise in coronavirus infections.

In a nationwide televised briefing, President Kenyatta said there was an “aggressive surge” of infections among young Kenyans who were socialising “particularly in environments serving alcohol” and who in turn are infecting older people in the communities, according to Eyewitness News reporting.

COVID-19 cases more than doubled to 17,600 in past three weeks since the government first lifted restrictions on movement and religious gatherings, according to Bloomberg reporting. Like its East African neighbors, Kenya took swift action to contain the coronavirus, closing its borders on March 25 when it had only 25 cases, shutting schools and imposing a curfew while advising people to work from home. However bars and other alcohol sales outlets took advantage of the fact that restaurants were allowed to remain open and began selling food, according to Eyewitness News. But evidence has made it clear now, that alcohol is a serious driver of the spread of COVID-19.

Restaurants have been ordered to close from 7:00 pm along with the extended curfew and the alcohol sales ban but a complete lockdown was not on the cards, said President Kenyatta, citing the need to support the economy. On July 26, Kenya recorded 960 new infections, the highest single-day spike in the country since the disease appeared in the East African nation, according to Anadolu Agency reporting.

Reducing and preventing alcohol harm

President Kenyatta urged every Kenyan to take personal responsibility to help stop the spread of the coronavirus.

I said that I will not hesitate to re-escalate again if reckless behaviour is widespread, there shall be no sale of alcoholic beverages or drinks in eateries and restaurants across the territory of the Republic of Kenya effective midnight today for the next 30 days,” President Kenyatta said, according to Anadolu Agency reporting.

All bars shall remain closed until further notice. There shall be no sale of alcoholic beverages or drinks in eateries and restaurants”

President Uhura Kenyatta, July 27, 2020 in televised address to Kenyans

The new alcohol sales regulation contains the following measures:

  • Alcoholic drinks shall not be sold to sit-in customers at restaurants, eateries, bars, food courts, entertainment joints, supermarkets, wines and liquor shops or in any business establishment.
  • Any business establishment that sells alcohol shall operate between 9.00am and 7.30 pm.
  • A person shall not consume any alcoholic drink in a public place including a public park, restaurant, parking lot, eatery, bar, entertainment joint, Supermarkets or wines and spirits shop.
  • A fine of up to Sh20,000 or imprisonment for a period of maximum six months for those who violate the above provisions of the law.

Recently, South Africa introduced stronger measures to fight the coronavirus, efter a period of easing the lockdown, to help contain the spread of COVID-19. This included the re-introduction of the alcohol sakes ban in the country with which it has success in the first two lockdown phases..

Movendi International previously reported that during the COVID-19 pandemic, online alcohol sale and home delivery was increasingly fueling alcohol harm in Kenya.

NACADA, the National Authority for the Campaign against Alcohol and other Drug Abuse, issued strong warnings about consuming alcohol at home, saying alcohol use at home exposed children to underage alcohol intake and other harms.

We advise parents to take advantage of the situation to create an alcohol-free home environment as well as build closer relationships with their children,” said NACADA Chairperson Prof. Mabel Imbuga, as per Citizen Digital reporting.
Drinking at home also undermines the protective home environment for the pupils and students who are staying at home because of the containment measures imposed by Government to check the spread of COVID-19.”

Prof. Mabel Imbuga, Chairperson, NACADA

One of the damages of the COVID-19 lockdown – and fueled by Big Alcohol – is the normalization of consuming alcohol at home. In Kenya people have turned to alcohol to “pass time” and have started to use it to “cope” with the stresses of the pandemic and being in isolation. This is aggravated by the easy availability of alcohol through online retail and home delivery.

The brazenness of Big Alcohol in Kenya is apparent as bars have been staying open despite government restrictions and have adjusted to use loopholes in order to keep selling alcohol – even in the face of the current public health crisis.

If bars are caught under the new regulations they risk losing their licenses for good and the owners will face further legal repercussions.

South Africa is a country in the African region that successfully implemented an alcohol sales ban showing positive results. The ban led to a significant drop in alcohol-related trauma patients and deaths in hospitals, thus freeing up resources to cope with the pandemic. The ban was lifted as the country entered third level lockdown on June 1. Soon after alcohol-related trauma and injuries started wreaking havoc in hospitals again. To reduce the harm and save as many lives as possible the South African government reintroduced the alcohol ban on July 13.


Sources

The Star: “State mulls controlling sale, consumption of alcohol to curb virus spread

Standard Media: “Director of Public Health speaks on notice addressing ban on alcohol sales

Citizen Digital: “NACADA cautions Kenyans against drinking alcohol at home

Bloomberg: “Kenya extends curfew, limits sale of alcohol as cases soar

Anadolu Agency: “Kenya bans alcohol sale as coronavirus cases surge