Scientists offer six proposals to limit boozing after alcohol ban is lifted

03 August 2020 - 17:16 By Nomahlubi Jordaan
'You've saved lives, now save livelihoods': the SA Medical Research Council has made six proposals to limit the availability of alcohol when the ban is lifted (which it recommends).
'You've saved lives, now save livelihoods': the SA Medical Research Council has made six proposals to limit the availability of alcohol when the ban is lifted (which it recommends).
Image: 123RF/Vladislavs Gorniks

The SA Medical Research Council  (SAMRC) has put forward six proposals to limit the availability of alcohol — and reduce hospital trauma cases — once the booze ban is lifted.

The council's Prof Charles Parry unpacked the basket of measures during an interview on radio 702 on Monday. Parry and council president Prof Glenda Gray urged the government to review the alcohol ban, during an interview with Business Day TV on Friday.

A fresh ban on the sale of alcohol was announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa, in addition to a night curfew, to reduce alcohol-related trauma cases at hospitals and free up beds to treat possible Covid-19 patients.

Gauteng premier David Makhura last week reported a 57% occupation rate with 5,500 patients using the 9,576 public hospital beds available in the province. Western Cape premier Alan Winde reported a 71% occupancy rate of hospital beds in Cape Town.

With some data indicating a slowing of infections, the council says plans should be made now to ensure there is not a “free-for-all” scenario when the ban is eventually lifted.

The proposals to prevent this include:

  1. Reducing the number of days, for example from four to three a week, that alcohol can be sold.
  2. Limiting container sizes, for example beer to 330ml and 500ml containers and wine to 750ml bottles instead of 5l containers. This would increase the price of alcohol.
  3. Limiting the quantity of alcohol sold per person to prevent people from buying in bulk and then reselling. This would also entail a limit on the amount of alcohol that could legally be transported per vehicle.
  4. “There’s a proposal to bring down the maximum blood alcohol concentration level for drivers to .02 [per 100ml of blood]. Frankly,  I think .02 is more defendable because it allows you to have some medication with alcohol in it ... That would require the police and traffic police to do more roadblocks,” said Parry.
  5. Doing more tests for alcohol after vehicle collisions.
  6. Making alcohol-related trauma a “notifiable condition” through clinical assessments or biological markers obtained at hospitals to get a more complete picture of the role played by alcohol in trauma cases.

Gray said during her interview with Business Day TV: “We have seen the affect that the curfew and alcohol ban have [had] ... so I would recommend now that we do have hospital space ... we need to respond appropriately so we can manage both lives and livelihoods.”

This referred to ongoing job losses and financial hardship being experienced within the alcohol industry.

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