South Africans are currently being infected by the COVID-19 virus at a rate alarmingly higher than during the first wave, with many of those affected requiring hospitalisation. Our hospitals and health workers are desperately needed to treat COVID-19 patients, not to be preoccupied with dealing with injuries caused by alcohol-related violence and car crashes. In December 2020, both to free up hospital beds and to stop the spread of the virus, government agreed on a suspension of the transportation and sale of alcohol until further notice.
Health workers are exhausted. They are working hard and long hours to treat COVID-19 patients. They themselves are being infected by the virus, with some even losing their lives. They need our support. The temporary ban on the sale of alcohol is offering them vital protection.
South African Breweries (SAB), with the possible support of other bodies like the Restaurant Association of South Africa (RASA), have responded by going to court to challenge government’s decision, even though the temporary ban on the sale of alcohol and the night-time curfew are keeping people in South Africa safe from alcohol-related harm and allowing hospital workers to focus on COVID-19 cases.
Since 2016, the South African government has had an updated National Liquor Policy and a draft Liquor Amendment Bill  which contain new provisions for regulating the distribution and sale of alcohol. The Policy and the Bill are based on the World Health Organisation (WHO) Global strategy to reduce the harmful use of alcohol. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that the harmful use of alcohol contributes disproportionately to the number of trauma admissions in hospitals across South Africa, especially over weekends. We are therefore in urgent need of permanent new measures to regulate alcohol in order to save lives and money.
Only 31% of people in South Africa aged 15 and above actually drink alcohol. But, when they do, the majority of them drink heavily and in a way that is harmful to themselves and others. The alcohol industry depends on this binge-drinking to make their substantial profits, hence their resistance to the current ban and to alcohol regulation in general.
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