The lifting of the alcohol ban in South Africa has once again highlighted the issues which range from super-spreader events, illegal house parties, acts of domestic violence and motor vehicle accidents. 

The spike in the number of vehicle accidents and acts of domestic violence after the government lifted the prohibition of the sale of alcohol is alarming. There has also been an increase in the number of house parties being hosted, even though under the level 3 lockdown regulations “social gathering” are considered illegal.

Not even twenty-four hours after the lift on the ban of alcohol sales were Paramedics and police services having to respond to vehicle accidents and alcohol fuelled house parties. It is apparent that lessons from the previous banning of alcohol in South Africa which was implemented because of the high incidences of alcohol related injuries, and the increase in the spread of the Covid-19 virus as a result thereof, have not been learnt. 

As the number of Covid-19 infections are decreasing, the number of alcohol-related injuries are increasing which puts pressure on hospitals. The problem which arises is that casualty departments, emergency rooms, ICU and high care all use the same medical facilities for treating Covid-19 patients as well as patients who have been seriously injured either by a vehicle accident or physical injury arising from an act of domestic violence for example. This puts enormous additional pressure on our hospitals at a time when Covid-19 is still prevalent within South Africa. 

There is a genuine fear, and rightly so, that Covid-19 infections could rise once more amidst social gatherings, where partygoers do not practice social distancing and wear a mask. The likelihood is, that if alcohol is not consumed responsibly by individuals that our Government will once again place a ban on the sale of alcohol. This will effectively put an enormous strain on our alcohol industry which has been hard hit by the ban on the sale of alcohol. The reality of a further ban could also bring about a loss of thousands of jobs not only in the alcohol industry but also industries such as the tourism and leisure industry who rely on the sale of alcohol to their customers and clients. 

Unless those few individuals who fail and or refuse to practice social distancing, wear masks and abuse alcohol change their attitude, the majority of South African’s who do comply with the level 3 lockdown restrictions and who do consume alcohol responsibly will be subjected to yet another ban on the sale of alcohol. 

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Author – Kate Bailey – Hill

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