Vice President and Minister of Health and Child Care Dr. Constantino Chiwenga announced level four lockdown measures in Zimbabwe on January 9, 2021. Under the new measures alcohol sales in all outlets including supermarkets have been banned. The only exceptions are bars and restaurants serving hotel residents.
Other measures under level four lockdown include the closure of all businesses except those classified essential such as supermarkets, pharmacies and banks and a ban on all gatherings except funerals which are limited to 30 people.
Already before the implementation of the latest set of measures alcohol outlets, bars and other on-premise alcohol retailers were closed, which only left supermarkets open for alcohol purchase. The new measures have now also banned alcohol sales from supermarkets as well.
The measures are to be in place for 30 days.
Bottle stores and bars are potential hazardous places for the spread of Covid-19,” said the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Ziyambi Ziyambi, as per, ZimEye.
Generally, alcohol leads to non-compliance. Our aim is to ensure that people comply and stay at home and we arrest new infections.”Ziyambi Ziyambi, Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Zimbabwe
Neighboring South Africa had previously implemented two successful alcohol sales bans and recently implemented a the third temporary alcohol sales ban with a level three lockdown. The alcohol sales bans in South Africa led to significant reductions in alcohol-related hospitalizations, crime and accidents which substantially reduced the pressure on the healthcare system and emergency services during the pandemic.
Limiting alcohol availability is recommended by the World Health Organization during COVID-19 lockdowns. Alcohol use undermines COVID-19 preventive measures such as physical distancing and protective mask use wearing. In addition, reasons for reducing alcohol availability during the pandemic include:
- Alcohol weakens the immune system making people more susceptible to infections such as coronavirus.
- Alcohol is a risk factor for many non-communicable diseases (NCDs) which are known to lead to more severe progression of coronavirus infection and increase risk of death from COVID-19.
- Alcohol-related diseases, injuries and accidents place avoidable strain on the healthcare system and emergency services which are at capacity due to the pandemic.
The WHO also details the risks of alcohol consumption during COVID-19 in a set of FAQs published by their European Regional Office.
Preventing and reducing alcohol harm such as through reducing availability, is not only important for prevention of COVID-19 but a crucial step in pandemic recovery and building back better.