Buvaliwe – the sale of alcohol is suspended again in South Africa. This comes after a two-month ban on the sale of alcohol that was originally lifted on 1 June, prompting people to line up outside liquor stores in numbers. South Africa is among the top five countries in the world that has the highest consumption of absolute alcohol per drinker anually, the second-highest category of harmful patterns of drinking and the highest category in the past year for heavy episodic drinking.
The government has made an excellent decision to ban the sale of alcohol. Since the alcohol ban was lifted from 1 June, hospitals have experienced a spike in admissions in their trauma and emergency wards, putting additional strain on already limited healthcare resources. The focus is now on fighting to combat the spread of the Covid-19, not people who are drinking alcohol recklessly and end up in hospitals due to accidents.
Most South Africans breach lockdown regulations when they are under the influence of alcohol. Over the past month, since the sale of alcohol was reinstated and restaurants reopened, many South Africans continued life as it was pre-lockdown. Another negative externality associated with alcohol consumption in South Africa is gender-based violence (GBV). For example, women with male partners who come home drunk frequently are 4 to 7 times more likely to suffer GBV attacks. Many people organised parties, dinners, and social gatherings, despite these actions being outlawed by lockdown regulations. The alcohol ban, in hindsight, should not have been lifted until the number of Coronavirus cases dramatically decreased.
Now that it is back in place however, the alcohol ban will inevitably cost more jobs. The hardest hit will be a significant number of smaller retailers and taverns. The government must include them in relief funds awarded to other small business owners. During the 9-week lockdown, the alcohol industry lost R18bn in revenue and the government R3.4bn in excise tax revenue which it collects on sold liquor that is regulated. Without regulations in the sale of liquor, the collection of this tax is impossible.
Despite the Liquor industry playing an enormous role in the economy, the health and safety of all South Africans should trump this importance. South Africans need to learn how to behave and control themselves when they are under the influence of alcohol.
All South Africans have a part to play, in combating the spread of the Covid-19. The government won’t win this battle alone, and they cannot be blamed for the ban on the sale of alcohol. Those flouting lockdown regulations, and many in those cases due to the consumption of alcohol, should be blamed. This is not the time to celebrate. Rather it is a time to unite and suppress the urge to consume alcohol to assist with the fight against Coronavirus.