South Africa’s decisive and fast action on alcohol control has contributed to a lower COVID-19 burden in the country and better capacity of the healthcare system and emergency services to respond to the coronavirus crisis…

The South African government tested and then implemented an alcohol sales ban as part of their public health response to COVID-19. The ban first lasted from end of March to June 1, 2020. The alcohol sales ban was met with aggressive Big Alcohol lobbying before and during the time it was implemented. The South African government finally succumbed to the pressures and lifted the alcohol sales ban.

The burden of alcohol grew rapidly as soon as the ban was lifted. Putting public health before private profit the South African President Cyril Ramaphosa reintroduced the alcohol sales ban from July 12.

The results of the reintroduction of the ban were positive and widespread. As Movendi International previously reported, there were drops in hospital trauma cases, violence, violent deaths and crime.

For example, between March 29 and April 22 last year compared with March 27 and April 20 this year,

  • Murder cases dropped from 1542 to 432, showing a decrease of 72%,
  • Rape cases dropped from 2908 to 371, showing an 87,2% decrease, and
  • domestic violence cases have also reportedly dropped 69,4%.

The South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) and the University of Cape Town’s Centre for Actuarial Research, reported that since the lockdown measures and the alcohol sales ban, unnatural deaths in the country halved. Furthermore, SAMRC modelling suggests hospital trauma admissions have decreased by 66% during this time.

As soon as the alcohol sales ban was lifted on June 1, hospitals started being flooded with alcohol related cases again. The situation in hospitals since lifting the alcohol ban was likened to a ‘nightmare’. 

Soon after the South African President announced the reintroduction of the alcohol sales ban. This decision rejected alcohol industry lobbying pressures and clearly putting the public interest before private profits.

It is vital that we do not burden our clinics and hospitals with alcohol-related injuries that could have been avoided. We have therefore decided that in order to conserve hospital capacity, the sale, dispensing and distribution of alcohol will be suspended with immediate effect,” said President Cyril Ramaphosa upon reintroducing the alcohol sales ban in South Africa, as per Deseret News.

Cyril Ramaphosa, President, South Africa

The alcohol sales ban continues to be in effect in South Africa and is significantly alleviating the burden on the healthcare system and thus saving more lives during the ongoing crisis.

Public health officials in the country hail the alcohol sales ban as policy success.

The ban definitely had a beneficial impact, said Maurice Smithers, chair of the Southern African Alcohol Policy Alliance, as per Deseret News.

There was a dramatic reduction in alcohol-related trauma admissions to hospitals. That would have included alcohol-based violence, gender-based violence, car accidents and so on”

Maurice Smithers, Chairperson, Southern African Alcohol Policy Alliance (SAAPA)

Source Website: Deseret News