Level 1 lockdown: Will alcohol restrictions on sale times remain?

President Cyril Ramaphosa, earlier this week, said he would soon address the nation and that could mean Level 1 lockdown is on its way. While there's a lot to navigate such as curfew and international travel, we have to wonder what lies ahead regarding alcohol laws and sales. 


During Level 2 lockdown, certain regulations on alcohol were implemented. According to a gazette published in late August, we are once again allowed to purchase alcohol following a ban but only at certain times and on certain days. 


Under Level 2, we've only been able to purchase alcohol from liquor stores from 9:00 to 17:00 from Monday to Thursday — four days a week. The question remains, will we be able to purchase alcohol on more than just four days a week come Level 1? 

WILL ALCOHOL SALE RESTRICTIONS REMAIN UNDER LEVEL 1 LOCKDOWN? 


At the moment, it's all speculation and we know better than to try and guess what government will pull out of its hat. 


The reality is that the alcohol ban has come into existence twice based on certain factors despite which alert level we were under. As we're sure you can remember, the reason government implemented a second alcohol ban was because hospitals were being filled to the brim with patients connected to alcohol abuse. Whether it was car accidents, domestic violence incidents, the point was that space was being taken up when COVID-19 patients could have been assisted. 


Despite a significant decline in COVID-19 infections, deaths and hospital submissions, the fear of "free-for-all" alcohol consumption remains. 


The reality is that government could decide to keep these current restrictions under Level 1 and beyond. Not necessarily to assist COVID-19 patients but more to keep incidents of drunk driving and domestic violence at bay. 


Police Minister Bheki Cele said that when alcohol was normally sold, cases of gender-based violence increased and when there was a ban, it decreased. The same was reported for crime in general. 


Just last month three Tshwane Metro Police Department (TMPD) officers were killed in a head-on collision with a suspected drunk driver. The incident, by no means, helped alcohol restrictions to be eased. In fact, it was quite the opposite. Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula, who sided with Cele, said there was over access of alcohol and it urgently needed to be addressed as citizens were "out of control". 


Shortly after the tragic collision, Mbalula announced that new laws would be imposed to give effect to a zero-tolerance policy on driving while under the influence of alcohol. 


The new laws will mean that an individual cannot get behind the wheel of a vehicle if they register anything more than a 0% blood-alcohol content.

IS A NEW ALERT LEVEL LOOMING? 


Government has always maintained that restrictions will be eased and alert levels downgraded once there is a significant decrease in infections, deaths and hospital admissions. 


Health Minister Zweli Mkhize, on Saturday 12 September, said the department is seeing big improvements. 


"Today, we cautiously but optimistically breathe a sigh of relief as we continue to see our detected cases, hospital admissions, deaths and even excess deaths declining," he said.  


"Our recovery rate is now almost at 90% and our mortality rate has remained stable at around 2%," he added. 


Mkhize even went on to say that a move to Level 1 is needed; "The sooner we can get to Level 1 the better. The sooner we have a normal economy the better. It is better for the country."


While optimism is in the air regarding the trajectory of the pandemic, we can't be sure about the sale of alcohol and laws going forward. While Ramaphosa is gearing up to address the nation in the coming days, we can only wait to see what unfolds. 

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