As the Delta variant of the coronavirus spreads rapidly across the country, the South African government has introduced the fourth temporary alcohol sales ban as part of a range of measures during the adjusted level 4 lockdown to contain virus spread and reduce the burden on the healthcare system. Previous alcohol sales ban have been effective in protecting lives and health system capacity.

President Cyril Ramaphosa in his nation’s address on June 27, 2021 announced the country is moving to adjusted level 4 lockdown. That means a new temporary alcohol sales ban for on and off premise was introduced. The measures are to last till July 11 and will be reassessed.

The measures were sparked after an expert briefing to the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) on June 26. The head of the Ministerial Advice Committee (MAC) on COVID-19, professor Koleka Mlisana called for improved regulations to curb the virus spread. Movement restrictions and total bans on gatherings were recommended.

Gauteng, the epicenter of the third COVID-19 wave in South Africa is seeing record breaking numbers in new COVID-19 cases. The highly-infectious Delta variant is now the dominant strain of the virus detected in South Africa.

We continue to see infections rapidly rising and Gauteng continues to be the epicentre of these new infections,” said Mmamoloko Kubayi, acting minister of health of South Africa, as per Sunday Times.

We remain very worried about the rise in hospitalisations, which is putting a lot of strain on the health facilities in Gauteng. The trends are clearly showing that other provinces are going to experience the trend we are seeing in Gauteng, notably in the Western and Eastern Cape.”

Meanwhile the vaccination roll-out in South Africa continues but registration is low as people stay indoors due to the increased virus spread. The vaccination program was set to expand in the next few weeks, opening up to people over 50 years and targeting 250,000 a day by the end of July.

Business and industry organizations, such as the Business for SA (B4SA) and the Black Business Council, have opposed a level 4 lockdown in fear of economic instability. However, the South African government is prioritizing saving as many lives as possible with the new measures, including the new temporary alcohol sales ban.

When transmission grows very, very fast we overwhelm our hospitals and we have extra deaths, not just from Covid but from other diseases,” said professor Tulio de Oliveira, a member of the ministerial advisory committee on COVID-19, as per Sunday Times.

Professor Tulio de Oliveira, Member, ministerial advisory committee on COVID-19

The previous temporary alcohol sales bans were widely successful in easing the pressure on South Africa’s healthcare system.

Professor Steve Reid, Head of the Directorate of Primary Health Care at the University of Cape Town shared a few key indicators of success of the temporary alcohol sales bans

  1. The bans have effectively reduced the pressure on the healthcare system, including front line health care workers.
    1. This was 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 burden. 
  2. Fewer people died of alcohol-related trauma during the temporary alcohol sales bans according to a study conducted during the first alcohol sales ban.
    1. The results were reconfirmed during the second alcohol sales ban.

The success of the temporary alcohol sales bans were documented in research analyzing the trauma case volume from Worcester Regional Hospital in South Africa. The results showed that:

  • There was a 59 to 69% decrease in trauma volume between the no ban and alcohol sales ban 1 periods.
  • Trauma volume dropped again by 39 to 46% with alcohol sales ban 2.
  • Partial bans of alcohol sales were not effective in reducing trauma volumes.

Source Website: Sunday Times