Gauteng to revisit alcohol ban

Gauteng premier David Makhura says that his provincial government will make a decision in the coming days as to whether it will call for the reinstatement of an alcohol ban in the province.

Speaking in a press briefing on Friday (12 June), Makhura said that the reintroduction of the sale of alcohol under South Africa’s level 3 lockdown has led to a direct increase in trauma-related cases, News24 reports.

“The cumulative impact is something we can see, especially in the wards. We were happy that some of the wards were empty. Some are now filling up. When the discussion takes place there is no doubt that we will share the experience of Eastern Cape.

“We will say that we are deeply concerned. We have not yet come to the decision as Provincial Command Council that says alcohol should be completely banned. We have been dealing with the effect of it.”

Other provincial governments have noted that the sale of alcohol has also led to an increase in hospital admissions unrelated to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Western Cape premier Alan Winde said that the increase in alcohol-related admissions is particularly damaging as the province prepares for an influx in coronavirus cases.

“We have spent all this time and energy to makes sure that our health response is ready, we fought really hard to make sure that we get to level 3 in this province and now I’m being let down.

“We cannot allow this to happen, we have got to make sure that responsibility is taken up. This is a partnership between government and the citizens,” he said.

This was echoed by Eastern Cape premier Oscar Mabuyane, who last week noted that hospitals in the province have seen a sharp spike in trauma cases directly related to alcohol abuse.

Mabuyane said that he was alarmed to see long queues at liquor stores, and said it would likely increase the rate of infection in the province – which is the second-hardest hit after the Western Cape.

He said that the province would lobby the national government to reintroduce the alcohol ban if things did not improve.

“We are hopeful that such scenes won’t be a constant feature in our province going forward, because we would be left with no choice but to lobby the national government to prohibit the sale of alcohol again.

“Protecting lives is more important than alcohol sales,” he said.

No plans to reintroduce ban right now

Retailers are allowed to sell alcohol under South Africa’s level 3 regulations, subject to strict conditions.

On Monday (8 June), the government said it does not plan to reintroduce a countrywide ban on the sale of alcohol at this point in time.

“No such calls have been tabled before the National Coronavirus Command Council at this point,” presidency spokesperson Khusela Diko told TimesLive.

This was reiterated by Cooperative Governance spokesperson Mlungisi Mtsal who said that he was not aware of any plans to reintroduce the ban on alcohol.

“There is no decision on alcohol and there is no conversation around alcohol that I am aware of yet,” he told Jacaranda.

However, some senior members of the government have voiced their support for the reintroduction of an alcohol ban.

Police minister Bheki Cele has said that the ban should have remained in place. He said that it is unfortunate that he is unable to use his personal position on the matter of the sale of alcohol.

Cele said earlier this week that crime levels have increased since the ban on the sale of alcohol was lifted.

He said that for two months during lockdown level 4, the worst day would see around 30 people dead. However, since lockdown has been moved to level 3, that number has more than doubled on some days.

Cele said there has been an increase in the number of alcohol-related trauma cases in hospitals, with doctors complaining that the system has become ‘clogged’.

“I have said it all the time that if I were given the opportunity to run and decide alone, my first prize would be to ban the alcohol because I believe there is a lot of evidence that it is not doing anything good,” he said.

“I am very sure that the matter will be discussed, and will continue to be discussed at the council (National Coronavirus Command Council),” the police minister said.

Read: Gauteng’s coronavirus cases double in one week

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