The alcohol ban has been the government's 'golden goose' when it comes to implementing tighter lockdown restrictions. Booze has been pulled from the shelves twice since March, and the future of liquor sales in South Africa was thrown into turmoil this week: A leaked government document had initially proposed to ban ale until the very end of lockdown.
Why the alcohol ban is seen as 'flawed'
These alleged proposals were eventually dismissed by officials, but the demonisation of alcohol may be a misguided move from Cabinet. Medical experts from the Universities of the Witwatersrand and KwaZulu-Natal have told Rapport that the reductions in trauma rates are more to do with restrictions on personal movements, rather than the effects of prohibition:
"It's evident that where physical movement and coming together are involved, the chances of car accidents and violence are higher. According to tracking data on smartphones, the movement of South Africans during hard lockdown decreased by 80% Limited movement presents fewer opportunities for trauma."University research teams
Hard lockdown – rather than the alcohol ban – to thank for 'fewer trauma admissions'
The government claim to be following the science when it comes to the alcohol ban. But even the SA Medical Research Council suggested that Ramaphosa and his cronies could have implemented some alternatives. According to this latest study, strict curfews and a lack of permitted movement helped bring hospital traumas down at the Chris Hani Baragwanath facility in Johannesburg.
In March, the hospital recorded 2 217 trauma cases.
- In April, under lockdown level 5, this dropped to 1 151 cases. [*]In May, under lockdown level 4 this increased to 1 623.[*]In June, when restrictions on movement were loosened significantly, and the sale of alcohol was again allowed, trauma cases increased by over 1 000 cases
Will government reconsider their stance?
The university experts have also argued that the alcohol ban doesn't provide data unique to South Africa. It's crucial to note that our trends match those of many other countries across the world, and an overwhelming majority of those did not implement a shutdown on booze sales.
If we have a government that is so vehemently 'following the science', then they would be hard-pressed to ignore these findings. An alcohol ban could be in place for another six weeks, but whether the move can paper up the cracks in government policy remains to be seen. For now, it's pineapples and sugar for us.