As COVID-19 infections decline in the country, Botswana has lifted their temporary alcohol sales ban and moved down to level 3 of the emergency framework.

According to an address by President Mokgweetsi Masisi, COVID-19 cases in Botswana have been gradually decreasing since August 13, 2021. The temporary alcohol sales ban that was in place throughout August has therefore been lifted as of September 6, 2021. Alcohol will now be allowed on a takeaway basis.

Other COVID-19 counter-measures have also been relaxed. All public gatherings, including weddings, are allowed while adhering to COVID-19 protocols. The number of people at religious gatherings is limited to 50 at a time. Inter-zonal movement remains limited to essential travel only. Schools have opened as planned by September 7, 2021.

Botswana needs to improve alcohol policy solutions

While temporary alcohol sales bans can help to curb the COVID-19 pandemic, what Botswana needs is to improve overall alcohol policy.

As Movendi International previously reported, communities in Botswana have called on the government to improve alcohol policy solutions. Specifically to tax alcohol adequately and use the revenue to strengthen support services for prevention and recovery from alcohol problems.

Nevertheless, last year alcohol policy in Botswana was weakened, not improved, when the government lifted the ban on alcohol sports sponsorship and partnerships between sporting codes and the alcohol industry. Previously, the government stepped in to support sporting codes through the Botswana National Sports Commission (BNSC). But, government resources were drained due to the pandemic, which presented the alcohol industry a lucrative opportunity make their way back into sports sponsorship. Along with lifting of the alcohol sports sponsorship ban, consumption of alcohol at sports events was also permitted. This decision will again expose children in the country to heavy alcohol marketing and harm through sports.

©WHO Global Alcohol Status Report 2018

As the World Health Organization reports,

  • Overall, per capita alcohol use of those who consume alcohol is at staggering 26.2 liters of pure alcohol per year.
  • Botswana’s total alcohol consumption is higher than the regional average in the WHO African region.
  • More than 12% of men in Botswana have an alcohol use disorder.
  • More than 70% of young males who consume alcohol engage in heavy episodic alcohol use. 
  • Regarding years of life lost due to alcohol, the country ranks among the countries in the world with the highest burden. 

Botswana urgently needs to implement evidence-based and cost-effective alcohol policy solutions such as the three best buys – increasing taxes, limiting availability, and advertising bans – and the SAFER package recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO). Only through such policy measures can Botswana reduce the heavy alcohol burden and protect its people from the harm caused by the products and practices of the alcohol industry.

Source Website: IOL