Government must crack down on festive season drinkers, or superspreader events could push the country closer to a total ban on alcohol.
That was the warning from Southern African Alcohol Policy Alliance South Africa (Saapa) director Maurice Smithers.
The group was calling on the government to not just rely on big industry campaigns, promoting safe drinking, but to use the National Disaster Act to prevent mass alcohol-induced gatherings, late-night clubbing and drunken driving. These three activities were the biggest threats to the gains made in controlling the spread of the virus during the lock down period.
Saapa wrote a letter to government asking them to use the Act to control the availability of alcohol during the festive season and reduce alcohol-related harm.
The alcohol industry, in campaigns this week, called on drinkers to consume liquor responsibly. But Smithers said the campaigns by the government and industry were not enough.
With Black Friday liquor specials, as well as specials during the festive season, people were expected to buy liquor in unprecedented numbers.
“We are not convinced that people are going to listen. Our sense is that people will simply do what they want to. That is why these particular interventions are necessary.
“People will complain but it will actually help them to be more responsible.”
Anticipating a surge of special-chasing booze buyers, the Beer Association of South Africa (Basa) called on all traders and consumers to sell and consume alcohol safely and moderately to avoid a liquor ban.
“Such strict measures cost the beer industry an estimated 7 400 jobs, R14.2 billion in lost sales revenue and more than R7.4 billion in lost taxes and excise duties, while 31% of craft breweries were forced to shut their doors permanently,” said Basa spokeswoman Nicole Mirkin.
As Covid-19 case numbers in the Eastern Cape continued to soar in what officials feared was a second surge, provincial and local government leaders intensified calls for a ban on alcohol this festive season.
Last week, Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize warned local and district governments nationwide, especially in the Eastern Cape, that urgent action had to be taken in districts where fresh surges of Covid-19 infection were happening. At the time, the Eastern Cape had the highest number of active cases at 8 607.
On Wednesday, Mkhize announced that the province accounted for half of the country’s daily ca
– The Citizen