Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize has warned that new restrictions are inevitable as the country approaches its third wave of COVID-19 infections.
The number of positive COVID-19 cases in the country has increased with the Free State and Gauteng now effectively experiencing a third wave.
On 15 May, South Africa recorded 2 750 new infections and 59 new COVID-19-related deaths
The total number of infections to date is 1 611 143 country-wide, while the total number of deaths is 55 183. There are currently 32 717 active cases in the country, with Gauteng registering the largest number of infections with 7 579 active cases.
Although Minister Mkhize says the country is not technically experiencing a third wave yet, he warns that the numbers are likely to climb and so has encouraged provinces to intensify their response programmes to limit the increase in infections.
Government will now have some tough decisions to make to curb a resurgence in infections. The Southern African Alcohol Policy Alliance in SA (SAAPA SA) believes it is best to act sooner rather than later and that government should not wait until the health system becomes overburdened before restrictions are introduced.
“Alcohol consumption should not aggravate the predicted impact of the third wave,” said Maurice Smithers, Director of SAAPA SA. “We have seen the additional burden on the healthcare system caused by trauma cases related to harmful drinking, through car crashes, incidents of interpersonal violence and gender-based violence. Also, when people consume alcohol, their ability to adhere to COVID-19 protocols – wearing masks, maintaining social distancing and washing hands – can be diminished and contribute to the spreading of the virus.”
SAAPA SA urges government to respond to the threatening third wave of the pandemic by strengthening the current restrictions on alcohol access. Doing so will limit pressure on hospitals and keep the infection rate down. It will save lives and avoid having to resort to harsher emergency measures such as imposing a complete ban on alcohol and causing avoidable economic hardship.
- Temporarily imposing zero breath and blood concentration levels for drivers during the State of Disaster – such a measure is already contained in the Road Traffic Amendment Bill which is currently before Parliament and has wide-spread support, but won’t be enacted before the end of 2021.
- Banning all special offers for reduced price alcoholic beverages at least until the end of the State of Disaster.
- Banning all alcohol advertising except at point of sale to reduce the pressure on people to drink.
Public Events and off-consumption sales
- Prohibiting major alcohol-fuelled party events, including street bashes.
- Reducing the gathering numbers to 50 indoors and 100 outdoors.
- Extending the curfew from midnight to 10pm, seven days a week.
- Announcing that all on-consumption liquor outlets should be closed from 6pm on public holidays and one day prior to public holidays to discourage the excessive use of alcohol in overcrowded venues and to limit the potential for ‘super-spreader’ events.
- Disallowing alcohol consumption in public places, particularly in parks, on beaches, at swimming pools etc.
- Suspending for a minimum three months, or revoking, the licences of outlets that break alcohol and/or COVID-19 regulations.
- Reducing off-consumption operating hours.
SAAPA SA has noted the alcohol industry’s concerns about a possible new ban in response to the anticipated third wave. The Alliance maintains that, if the industry wants to avoid future bans, it should stop opposing the adoption by government of new legislation, eg the Liquor Amendment Bill. An amended Liquor Act would mean better long-term regulation of the distribution, trading and marketing of alcohol, a change for the better in social drinking norms, and a reduction in the economic and social burden of alcohol-attributable harm on the country.
Furthermore, SAAPA SA fully supports government’s vaccine rollout programme which aims to immunise at least 67% of the population to achieve herd immunity. We encourage all South Africans to get vaccinated as soon as the opportunity arises – when you get vaccinated, you are protecting not only yourself, but all those around you as well.
Phase 1 of the vaccination process correctly targeted the country’s dedicated health workers who have been putting their own lives on the line while working to save the lives of others. We are pleased to see that government is now moving into Phase 2 which aims to reach the most vulnerable in our communities – all people aged 60 and above and those with co-morbidities. Phase 3 will hopefully see everyone else vaccinated and the country on the road to normality.
For more information or interview requests, please contact
Terri-Liza Fortein, Communications, SAAPA SA firstname.lastname@example.org or 079 9765 489
Maurice Smithers, Director, SAAPA SA email@example.com 082 373 7705