GovernancenewsSouth Africa

SA alcohol ban dispiriting but necessary

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa

JOHANNESBURG – WHILE it has angered imbibers around the country, the decision to reintroduce the ban on alcohol is essential for South Africa to flatten the coronavirus (COVID-19) curve that currently shows no signs of subsiding.

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the decision on Sunday evening as part of restrictions to tackle the scourge that at the time of his announcement had claimed 4 079 deaths from a total of 276 242 confirmed cases.

In his weekly letter on Monday, the president reiterated that the resumption of alcohol sales in June had resulted in substantial pressure being put on hospitals, including trauma and intensive care units (ICU) due to motor vehicle accidents, violence and related trauma.

“We have therefore decided that in order to conserve hospital capacity, the sale, dispensing and distribution of alcohol will be suspended with immediate effect,” Ramaphosa stated.

Sales of alcohol had initially been prohibited in late March when Ramaphosa’s government announced the lockdown.

Nema Ramkhelawan-Bhana, an economist, said although harmful to the alcoholic beverage industry, the measures announced on Sunday night struck the necessary balance between the preservation of scarce healthcare resources and the furthering of economic activities.

“Sometimes it is necessary to go back before we can move forward,” the Head of Rand Merchant Bank Global Markets Research, told CAJ News.

Ramkhelawan-Bhana said was unsurprised that National Coronavirus Command Council sought to reinstate certain restrictions to reduce the alcohol-related incidents choking trauma units.

She noted that in banning the sale of alcohol and re-implementing a national curfew, the Medical Research Council estimated that the time spent in general and ICU wards would be reduced by 124 000 and 46 000 days, respectively, over an eight-week period, allowing medical personnel to be redeployed to care for COVID-19 patients.

South Africa has the tenth-highest number of COVID-cases globally.

However, in terms of daily cases, it was among the top five at the time of publication.

The ban on alcohol is a divisive issue in the Southern African country.

The initial prohibition in March culminated in the looting of closed liquor stores, court challenges against the government decision and a flourishing illegal market for alcohol products.

– CAJ News

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