Alcohol restrictions third wave

Photo: Unsplash

‘Close bars at 18:00, ban parties’: Experts want tougher alcohol laws to fight third wave

COVID-19 infections are likely to soar in the coming weeks, thanks to a third wave of the virus – and the calls to crack down on alcohol are growing.

Alcohol restrictions third wave

Photo: Unsplash

Not many drinkers will be raising a glass to the South African Alcohol Policy Alliance (SAPAA) on Tuesday, after the forum of experts proposed guidance that would severely limit the availability of liquor in Mzansi during the impending third wave of COVID-19. The group is now adamant that the government should act ‘sooner rather than later’.

‘Close bars at 18:00, reduce gathering sizes’ – SAPAA want tougher alcohol restrictions during third wave

Alcohol bans and restrictions are becoming the ‘go-to policies’ whenever South Africa needs to take a step back on its road out of lockdown. With a resurgence of the virus now essentially confirmed on our shores, it looks like booze will once again have to take one for the team – with another period of prohibition up for consideration.

In a statement issued on Monday, Director Maurice Smithers proposed the following measures:

  • Temporarily impose zero breath and blood concentration levels for drivers during the State of Disaster.
  • Ban all special offers for reduced price alcoholic beverages during lockdown
  • Ban all alcohol advertising except at point of sale to reduce the pressure on people to drink.
  • Prohibit major alcohol-fuelled party events, including street bashes.
  • Reduce the gathering numbers to 50 indoors and 100 outdoors.
  • Extend the curfew from midnight to 22:00 seven days a week.
  • Close all on-consumption liquor outlets (pubs, bars) from 18:00 on public holidays and one day prior to public holidays. 
  • Reduce off-consumption operating hours for bottle stores.

Will there be an alcohol ban during the third wave?

To some, these laws will seem firm but fair. Others will take a glance and be left horrified by the depth of their severity. SAPAA are adamant, however, that the data is supportive of more ‘draconian rules’ when infection rates start rising.

“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 – contributing to the spread of the virus.”

“SAAPA SA urges the government to respond to the threatening third wave of the pandemic by strengthening the current restrictions on alcohol access. It is best to act sooner rather than later and that government should not wait until the health system becomes overburdened before restrictions are introduced.” | Maurice Smithers

Support for ‘strict liquor laws’ grows

SAPAA are not the only voices calling for a crackdown on the ale. Charles Parry – the director of the Alcohol, Tobacco & Other Drug Research Unit at the SA Medical Research Council – also suggested that ‘partial sales bans’ haven’t been too effective in the past. But rather than an outright ban, the professor believes other restrictions can be imposed:

“Partial liquor sales bans have substantially less effect on reducing trauma volume at regional South African hospitals compared to a full ban. Each time a complete ban was instituted there was a significant drop in trauma volume – which was then lost by allowing even partial sales.”

“Perhaps other measures like banning promotion and marketing except at points of sale and limiting sales of alcohol in container sizes are more likely to promote heavy episodic drinking. For the third wave, we should do something different, rather than just deciding to limit off-consumption days of sale.”