Alcohol group says restrict access to booze now and avoid a total ban on sales

The SA Alcohol Policy Alliance (Saapa) has proposed these 10 restrictions ...

The SA Alcohol Policy Alliance (Saapa) has urged the government to restrict access to alcohol now and avoid implementing a complete ban later. Stock photo.
The SA Alcohol Policy Alliance (Saapa) has urged the government to restrict access to alcohol now and avoid implementing a complete ban later. Stock photo.
Image: 123RF/Vladislavs Gorniks

As a Covid-19 third wave looms, the SA Alcohol Policy Alliance (Saapa) has urged the government to respond by introducing measures to restrict access to alcohol and advertisement, and avoid a complete ban.

A possible third wave of infections may hit during winter across the whole country, experts have warned. 

Saapa said the government should not wait until the health system becomes overburdened before restrictions are introduced.

The organisation issued a proposal to the government which included banning all special offers for reduced price alcoholic beverages and reducing the gathering numbers to 50 for indoors and 100 for outdoors.

The proposal comes after the National Liquor Traders Council last week called on South Africans to keep following Covid-19 rules and regulations to avoid another hard lockdown. 

The council urged citizens to “not drop their guard” and emphasised the importance of wearing masks, social distancing and hand sanitising.

Saapa believes that its proposed measures will limit the pressure on hospitals, infection rate will be down, and the government will avoid having to resort to harsher emergency measures such as imposing a complete ban on alcohol and causing avoidable economic hardship. 

“Alcohol consumption should not aggravate the predicted impact of the third wave,” said Maurice Smithers, director of the alliance.

“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 can be diminished and contribute to the spreading of the virus.”

Speaking on 702 on Tuesday, Smithers said if the government did not introduce measures to restrict access to alcohol, SA could have a return to the situation seen in December, with a huge increase in infection rates.

“We don't know what's going to happen in the third wave, but if we look at what is happening in other parts of the world, there is a very real risk that it could become bad. So what can we do to stop alcohol from contributing to it? That is our main focus,” he said. 

Here is what Saapa proposes:

Road safety 

  • 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 before parliament and has widespread support, but won’t be enacted before the end of 2021.

Advertising 

  • 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.

Public events and off-site 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-site consumption liquor outlets should be closed from 6pm on public holidays and one day before 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 and so on.
  • Suspending for a minimum of three months, or revoking, the licences of outlets that break alcohol and/or Covid-19 regulations.
  • Reducing off-site consumption operating hours.

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