The South African government implemented three temporary alcohol sales bans during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The bans were a measure taken by the government to contain the spread of the coronavirus and alleviate the pressure of massive alcohol harm on the healthcare system and emergency services. All three bans worked effectively to reduce hospital trauma cases, thus helping the country to tackle the pandemic better.
In an interview, Professor Steve Reid, Head of the Directorate of Primary Health Care at the University of Cape Town, discusses several key elements of success of these three temporary alcohol sales bans.

According to Professor Steve Reid the key indicators of success of the temporary alcohol sales bans are as follows:

  1. The bans have effectively reduced the pressure on the healthcare system, including front line health care workers. This is particularly true over the New Year. Normally trauma units were full over the New Year due to injuries and accidents caused by the products and practices of the alcohol industry. The alcohol sales bans greatly reduced this pressure.
  2. Fewer people died of alcohol-related trauma during the temporary alcohol sales bans as per a new study conducted during the first ban. The results were repeated with the second ban.

It is critical to investigate how to use the positive results from the temporary bans and translate them into a non-coronavirus context. For instance, post-pandemic focus should be placed on all alcohol policy solutions, including increasing taxes, reducing outlet density, limiting opening hours, banning alcohol advertising and increasing the legal age to 21 years. And better enforcing existing laws on alcohol, such as eliminating alcohol sales near schools, is currently also important.

Lessons learned: alcohol policy development on the agenda

As Movendi International reported previously, the government of South Africa is considering improving alcohol policy solutions in the country, as a result of positive data and experiences gained from the temporary bans.

Three key measures are on the agenda for consideration: 

  1. Raising the legal age limit for alcohol purchase/ consumption (currently at 18 years),
  2. Banning alcohol advertising, and
  3. Better mechanisms to track unlicensed alcohol sales.

These and any other effort at alcohol policy development in South Africa must be protected from interference by Big Alcohol’s lobby front groups. 

Political interference in public policy making is a pervasive strategy employed by Big Alcohol in the African region. For example, in South Africa the Draft Liquor Amendment Bill from 2017 is still not adopted due to alcohol industry lobbying to derail it.

Source Website: Cape Talk