POLL | Should SA adopt a total booze ban during Covid-19 waves?

08 September 2021 - 13:08
By Unathi Nkanjeni
The nationwide alcohol sales ban during previous Covid-19 lockdowns led to a significant decrease in the number of trauma cases in SA, according to a study. File photo.
Image: Sebabatso Mosamo The nationwide alcohol sales ban during previous Covid-19 lockdowns led to a significant decrease in the number of trauma cases in SA, according to a study. File photo.

The total ban on alcohol sales during previous Covid-19 lockdowns saw a decrease in the number of trauma cases in the country.

This is according to a new study published by the University of Cape Town (UCT) and Stellenbosch University

The study shows full alcohol bans during levels 4 and 5 were effective at reducing trauma cases, while partial bans were less so. 

The study looked at trauma cases during SA’s bans on alcohol sales, finding the full bans during high lockdown levels reduced trauma cases and assaults. 

The research used data from all trauma-related patients presented to the emergency centre at Mitchells Plain Hospital from March 1 to September 29 2020, and corresponding periods during 2019 were exported from an existing database.

The full ban was tied to other restrictions such as bans on social gatherings and non-essential travel. 

The alcohol restrictions during less strict levels, such as level 3, showed a reduction in trauma cases of close to 20%.

“A more true reflection of the effect of banning alcohol sales is seen during level 3, where an 18.7% reduction occurred when the alcohol ban was reinstated. This is close to the estimated 20% reduction in trauma cases foreseen by the government.

“A subsequent 41% increase when the ban was lifted further illustrates the effect of the alcohol sales ban,” said Dr Clint Hendrikse of UCT’s division of emergency medicine. 

Estimated R64.8bn lost during four bans

In July,  the SA Liquor Brand owners Association (Salba) said the four bans placed on liquor sales during the Covid-19 pandemic have cost the country’s GDP an estimated R64.8bn.

The R64.8bn excluded the cost of recent looting in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng. More than R500m in liquor stock was looted during violence and destruction in the provinces.

The first ban was enforced in March 2020, followed by a second in July and the third in December. The fourth ban was placed on June 28 this year and was lifted 28 days later.

Salba chairperson Sibani Mngadi said the four bans on alcohol sales resulted in a total loss in retail sales revenue of R45.1bn, or equivalent to 15.8% of the sector’s projected sales for 2020 and 2021.

Saving lives over livelihoods

In June then acting minister in the presidency Khumbudzo Ntshavheni said given the choice, the government will always choose to save lives over livelihoods during the Covid-19 pandemic.

She said the surge in Covid-19 cases was intensifying but the county could not afford to be placed under level 5 lockdown.

Ntshavheni urged businesses and industries to enforce regulations at their establishments.

“We understand we need to balance saving lives and saving livelihoods. We need to try as a nation, business, government and society to avoid going back into a hard lockdown so we can save jobs.

“If the government is given a choice to save livelihoods or save lives, we will choose to save lives because livelihoods we can rebuild but lives we cannot.”