South Africa has today lifted its heavily disputed alcohol ban for a second time this year. The first ban on alcohol was imposed as part of a COVID-19 lockdown on March 27 (inside.beer, 8.5.2020) and was lifted on June 1. Only a few weeks later, South African president Cyril Ramaphosa reinstated the controversial measure on July 12 without prior notice in order to free-up hospital beds occupied by those suffering from alcohol-related traumas.
There is “clear evidence” that a resumption of alcohol sales “has resulted in substantial pressure being put on hospitals, including trauma and ICU units, due to motor vehicle accidents, violence and related trauma”, the president said in a speech following his announcement.
South Africa was one of the countries that were hardest hit by the corona-virus but the country observes a steady declining number of COVID-19 infections. The rate declined from nearly 14,000 daily confirmed cases on July 24 to around 2,500 today according to the national Health Department.
"As we look back at the past five months, all indications are that South Africa has reached the peak and moved beyond the inflection point of the curve," President Ramaphosa said.
For this reason he eased nearly all restrictions on the country's economy from today on. Besides lifting the ban on alcohol and tobacco, he allowed again domestic travel, small family gatherings and the reopening of businesses.
“We absolutely understand the government was caught between a rock and a hard place: getting the balance between saving lives and protecting livelihoods,” said Patricia Pillay, CEO of the Beer Association of South Africa (BASA), in regard to the decision. “We will work with all stakeholders to ensure the sector gets back on its feet, that social awareness programmes around harm reduction are ramped up, and that we start the process of rebuilding the country’s economy.”