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Liquor taps could reopen in seven weeks

Medical Research Council says its report may have influenced the reintroduction of the alcohol ban, but alternatives should be considered.
While drinkers are unhappy and hospitals are said to be feeling the relief, the council is 'collecting data’ to determine whether it has made accurate predictions. Image: Jacques Nelles, Citizen

The public was supposed to be informed about the strain that alcohol-related trauma admissions were putting on the national health system before the sale of alcohol was banned for a second time.

This is according to the SA Medical Research Council (SAMRC), which has released the report that it says could be one of the reasons government put the brakes on the sale of liquor during advanced Level 3 lockdown a week ago. It predicts that the ban could last for at least eight weeks.

It presented its report to the government in early July.

“It should be noted that there are multiple pressures on the government to relax current restrictions on alcohol and … it is clear that these should not be entertained. It is imperative to maintain absolute transparency and inform the public of [the] rationale behind its decision to reimpose a ban or tighter restrictions,” the report says.

The report makes it clear that the SAMRC is in favour of “early implementation of a ban or restriction” when it comes to the sale of booze.

It says during levels 4 and 5 of the lockdown, which included a ban on the sale of liquor from both on-site and off-site consumption outlets, there was a 60% to 70% reduction in hospital visits and admissions related to trauma.

Since June 1, when restrictions for many industries were eased, the council says there has been an “a noticeable surge in trauma-related hospital visits”.

“This has been anecdotally attributed to easing of restrictions related to the sale and distribution of alcohol,” it says.

Estimated benefits

It estimates that the ban could achieve a reduction of approximately 3 400 alcohol-related trauma presentations across public secondary and tertiary hospitals by the end of the first week and about 6 800 by the third week.

“This is likely to have a substantial impact on reducing the burden on staff in trauma units, [and] the demand for inpatient beds, ICU facilities and ventilation capacity,” SAMRC says.

Since the initial ban was lifted, there has been a 2% increase in stab-related admissions to ICU for an average of five days.

Alternatives to a ban 

The council says that as an alternative to a complete ban on alcohol sales, the government could have implemented more stringent “restrictive alcohol control interventions to reduce the availability of alcohol”. See below:

Source: SAMRC

It says that though these are the recommended alternatives, they would be challenging to implement and will have a lesser impact even if used in combination.

Strategic sensibilities for government

“However, from a strategic point of view, it might be useful to consider taking such an approach to prevent push-back from the public and the liquor industry and associated businesses,” it says.

“It might also make it easier to defend legal challenges should they arise at a later stage if it is decided to still go ahead with a ban on liquor sales, as government will be able to demonstrate that it implemented less intrusive options first which didn’t have the desired impact.”

Charles Parry, director of the alcohol, tobacco and other drug research unit at the SAMRC, says there has been a significant improvement in trauma units since the ban was implemented last week.

“So far, from preliminary data I have seen from three hospitals that were presented in the media, it looks like trauma presentations have dropped between 23% and 83% following the imposition of a ban on liquor sales and the curfew comparing equivalent times before and after July 13,” he says.

Is the data accurate?

Parry adds that the council is continuing with its research to ensure that the data presented is accurate, as it may have underestimated the trauma presentations averted by a temporary ban on liquor sales.

“The assumptions are explicit and used the best data available – and were an honest attempt to address the question asked,” he says.

“The big question is: will the model be proven accurate in terms of its predictions?”

For the underlying costing estimates and bed days, he says the model used data from the ‘Mosaic’ (Modelling Covid-19 Strategies In South Africa) Collective, established by the University of Cape Town and SAMRC to provide rapid policy guidance and public engagement for South Africa’s Covid-19 response.

“We are working on collecting data to determine whether the model has made an accurate prediction,” says Parry.

While Parry cannot confirm whether or not SAMRC’s model could have influenced the government’s decision to make a U-turn on liquor sales, he believes a surge in gender-based violence could also have affected the decision.

“It was one factor and that is what the minister of health said, but I am sure there must have been other reasons … possibly the alcohol [and] GBV issues were [both] important.”

Read: Here’s how South Africans are dodging virus alcohol ban

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‘The rationale behind the NCCC decision …’ – tyranny i think it has been referred to over the ages and last i checked, 100 years ago the Americans called it Prohibition!

Dear NCCC i have a suggestion – if you are allegedly so concerned about the death and trauma caused by alcohol – why not consider also instituting an immediate ban on Taxi’s. They are after all, statistically the single largest cause of road deaths/ carnage and the trauma centres being over run as a result, on a daily basis – not so?

The admittedly old (1998) data I could find using Google painted a grim picture of taxi accidents:

60,000 accidents annually.
25,000 injuries.
2,000 deaths.

So yes, any logic would tell you that the taxi industry needs to be banned completely, if this was really about the virus. Of course it’s not; it’s the NDR playing out in front of our eyes.

Binge drinking kills around 3 million people worldwide every year.
Alcohol causes 100 000 cases of breast cancer every year.
Alcohol causes half a million cases of cancers ever year.
Alcohol is directly linked to causing 7 different types of cancer.

@Yani, Whilst i agree with you that alcohol is at very best a legalised the most potent brain killing drug which governments profit off and which allows the consumer to numb their brain away from their burdensome life.

People will end up consuming whatever they can get hold of to numb their brains away from their burdensome life, its even more dangerous for the home made brews and drugs to be consumed. People are suffering and it their coping mechanism which government has put an end to.

The unintended consequence of this will be more violence, more protests and destruction, ill be very surprised if the anc is in power come the next election.

In Portugal no drug is illegal, the war on drugs ended and only a few people have caused any form of social disruption to society.


The REASON people binge drink in South Africa is because they are UNEMPLOYED. There is NO WORK, and NO FUTURE in SA. Why ?

Because the ANC is a corrupt, racist & communist organisation.

ALCOHOL abuse issues are a SOCIAL-ECONOMICAL issue/problem, not a MEDICAL one.

and if the police do their job the 3m might be much lower. There lies the problem in SA….police not enforcing alcohol limits

Yanni, you’re looking at a symptom, an effect, not at a cause. As long as you’re looking at a symptom your approach will forever be ineffective.

Cyril is afraid of the taxi industry because they don’t play by the rules

Nor does he. Remember Marikana?

Yanni …your facts seem stranger than fiction

Just stating the facts. People must make their own decision to do what they want.

Alcohol is a direct cause of seven forms of cancer, the guardian

The Guardian is one of the most respected non profit English language newspapers in the world.

Don’t know if you’ve noticed Yanni, but the issue is precisely that people cannot make their own decision. Our wise benevolent govt, informed by our new high priests the Medical Professionals, have decided that we cannot be trusted to buy alcohol.

@Yanni – road accidents kill millions annually. Shall be ban cars too?

I don’t believe in prohibition. Alcohol and drugs should be legal however people have a right to have all the facts to make an informed decision for themselves.

World Health Organization says that 60% of road accidents in South Africa is alcohol related.

The problem with “whatabout” taxis, or tik, or anything else, is that it implies that everything would be fine if only we’re all equally subjugated under the boot of government. This is a variation on “tall-poppy” socialist thinking, and it’s poor.

What we should be reacting to here is the hubris of government, and of the SAMRC. I mean, who do they think they are? Medical professionals are service people who work for us. If I have a leg that needs fixing or a knife that needs removing, I’ll let them know. They have no special status above the people who serve me beer.

What happened in Chicago in the 1930’s with the prohibition brought about bootlegging ,the mafia and gangsters

The irony is the mafia are a bunch who call themselves “The Council” , the Gangsters probably sons and daughters of the most esteemed, the Honorables, creating an illicit market of bootlegging, all controlled by an elite group who choose to turn a blind eye, as they bowed the knee for the Taxi Industry, in all probability the transporters of the virus. Quote Ramaphosa “The virus does not move, people infected move it” Act by your words Squirrel

One has to beg the question, why oh why is no mention made of Cele going after those selling and distributing illegal tobacco and alcohol?

Mum is the word

The mad hatter is too busy chasing people smoking to be concerned about the upstream illegal supply. There is surely a reason for this prioritisation by the Minister of Police.

thanks Yanni, but 100% of road accidents involve motorcars so should we ban motorcars? Wait those same cars use tires, lets ban tires! Wait those tires use air, lets ban air!!! This is not North Korea or 1970 communist Russia

Jip – the “absolute transparency” of a double brick wall !!!!!!

I find this headline atrocious.

Does not say much for the behavior of the majority of our populous.

It lends great support for Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection among the populace. Just a pity about the collateral damage caused.

Like all trauma is alcohol related.

Under level 4 and 5 not many people traveled anywhere.

The mentality in SA is to find reasons why things CAN’T be done. Until this lot can look for reasons why things CAN be done. Forget.

Well, just look in the media today, after just one week of banned liquor sales trauma units have been freed up and resources can be allocated where they needed.

What media is not reflecting enough is the thousands of medical professionals sick and/or self isolating due to exposure. The system is stretched. It always has been and even more so now.

Front line doctors are very happy not to have alcohol sold right now. In this instance, the numbers dont lie.

Yes but we also have a curfew again. So people don’t drive at night and don’t mingle with other people at night.

We can also have zero accidents over the December holidays if we put everybody in solitary confinement. Do you want to live like that?

There are some that cause problems. Let the whole army look after them instead of doing nothing. You cant punish the whole country because of the few.

SORT THE FEW OUT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

They are clueless in this government!! No RECOVERY PLAN and what you have is a bunch of on the job trainee’s, that have NO CLUE what they are doing NOW or have any idea of a recovery plan. Remember THE GOVERNMENT (ANC) has already taken the country to junk. So if they can’t get that right HOW IN THE HECK ARE THEY GOING TO PUT TOGETHER A RECOVERY PLAN??????
Don’t forget to vote

They DONT have a plan. And never will have one.

unfortunately the fools at the Medical Research Council have no clue of the harm its doing to the economy….

The Medical Research Council serves to inform government on medical matters; government then acts on these finding. So to say that MRC are fools is incorrect.

The ANC has lots of plans, they suffer from zero or mismanaged implementation.

Of course there’s no recovery plan. That would disrupt their plan of self-enrichment.

The government needs to ask two questions which will point to their own failures.

1) Why are people binge drinking so much?

2) Where is law-enforcement to minimise these trauma incidents?

You in a war situation fighting an invisible enemy. There is no time for such questions which has a long term solution .

Each Christmas we witness mass carnage on our roads; up to now we have not found a solution. What makes you think that in 2 months it can happen.

In fact it did happen ONCE during the Soccer World cup; because they were force to by FIFA.

Kick in the home brewers in the rural areas. There have already been cases of spiked booze killing people.

I read this differently. I see an opportunity for a Covid liquor start up. The business objective is to make skokiaan, hooch, papsak and moonshine in seven weeks and dominate a thirsty SA market.

There of course certain legal constraints but the upside is huge and stonking.

I have not had time to run this business idea through moral and social responsibilities because after all liquor is for adults.

We can not allow the alcohol to blood ratio to fall to zero during this lockdown. It’s could prove lethal as suggested by my drunk uncle.

Apparently anti freeze can give skokiaan a lekka kick…..

And don’t forget to also add 500 ml of battery acid and a 150 ml of brake fluid to a 10 litre drum of moonshine to really make it go down smoothly! Oh, then don’t forget a packet of Rennies for later in the day;)

Antifreeze is Glycol, which is glycerol alcohol. Yes it will give a kick, enough of it will get you to kick the bucket.

Whoever wrote that headline needs to be whipped.

yeah!….they don’t know how long 7 weeks can be 😉

Yes, until Monday September 7th.

Binge drinking kills around 3 million people a year worldwide.
Alcohol causes over half million cancer cases in the world every year.
Alcohol causes 100 000 breast cancer cases every year in the world.
Alcohol is the direct cause of seven forms of cancer. (Source: The Guardian)

ok, now google how many people are killed by white bread annually. Diabetes is the most deadly comorbidity. The consumption of sugar and white bread directly leads to diabetes and covid deaths.

This is not the point though. The entire debate is about the right to be responsible for your own health. This is the most basic freedom. Now we have people like yourself who want to ban alcohol for others, while you are chewing on your white bread and drinking your sugary drink. Hypocrisy is the word. Busybody is another.

I hence assume you do not own any DISTELL or ABInBev shares? 😉

Best then to go “SAFE & BORING” without any little bit of alcohol, and would recommend Ecsponent shares (as it cannot fall too much from the current 1c level)

On a side note, “people do it to themselves” when binge-drinking. Alcohol not at fault…it’s a mere OBJECT.

For example, VEHICLE-related deaths (globally) stand at 1,35 million annually. Hence that 4-wheeled monster parked in your garage is a KILLER waiting to pounce! “Cars kill people” and you think you sleep safe at night?? Do you realise your 4-wheel people-killer is a few meters away from your bedroom at night? Scary.
Vehicles/trucks should be banned from society & move to safer horse & cart method I suppose.. 😉

Alcohol’s “problem” is PEOPLE (for the lack of education, upbringing, etc.)

Another media source claims that the covid tests are only 64% accurate. You must be very young to believe every piece of garbage the TOPIC media publishes.

According to a medical journal 40% of lung cancer patients are non smokers. 40% of ALL cancers are just plain bad luck.

Don’t be obtuse it’s a bad condition.

Coal mining kills thousands. Burning coal thousands more. Let’s ban all electricity in South Africa, because Yoni is scared.

The last time, I am saying this I don’t believe in prohibition, just giving people all the information so that they can make their own informed decisions.

The number of workers dependent on the alcohol industry i’ve seen just this week that are now destitute is depressing. I don’t know the net effect but i can tell you right now many people are also going to die from these rules and small children are with no food or shelter

The South African government should of said to SAB and the wine industry we won’t ban alcohol sales just paid for the extra 7000 beds we need.

Simply because someone wrote it (in the guardian) doesn’t make it true. Anyone can write anything and get it published in the Guardian.

So is there a law that says you can’t publish anything that isn’t true, or put anything on the internet that isn’t true?

You cant stop binge drinking or alcohol by banning it. Proven fact.

Yanni it is not alcohol that is responsible for these deaths. The responsibility lies with people, education, responsibility. Alcohol does not make up its mind to go out maliciously to kill people.

Looks like SARS desperately needs some extra VAT-revenue (more than drinkers need alcohol).

“Dear Government”
“We WON’T all go and stab our mates once we had a few drinks & most of us DO NOT resort to domestic violence, when quality wine is appreciated”.
Yours truly”

All alcohol manufacturers should move their operations from SA.

THE GUARDIAN – the BIBLE of the radical left.

To quote John Cleese from Life of Bryan.

“It’s symbolic of his struggle against reality.”

When it comes to the radical left and i guess you can add the NCCC and most of Luthuli house – replace HIS with THEIR.

The Guaridan is not radically left.It is central left.

One of the reasons why a ban on liquor is because drunks are occupying beds. Before lock down the drunks were occupying say 50,000 beds out of a total beds at that time of say 1,500,00 Thus the 50, 000 were included in the total Then they locked us, reason being to prepare additional beds, over and above the 50,000 for the me and my drunk friends. At that stage additional beds for say about 400,000 were required on their forecast. The beds for the drunks were at that stage no issue Now that they they were incompetent to prepare extra beds the use of liquor is blamed Further they originally forecast about three times more beds expected as what actually now needed and still failed to supply. Take the actual figures to court and for cigarette ban

“Since the initial ban was lifted, there has been a 2% increase in stab-related admissions…” Really 2%? And that equates to a bunch of friends sitting in a circle. I think this is irresponsible reporting because it is just sensationalism.

This ban would shortly be found unconstitutional. @Yanni, take away my livelihood if you want to, but compensate me 100%. Moron

I said I didn’t believe in prohibition just people having all the fact so that they can make their own informed decisions. I have no problem with the government compensating you if you can’t earn an income.

The South African government should of said to SAB and the wine industry we won’t ban alcohol sales just paid for the extra 7000 beds we need.

Give them each a panga and bottle of brandy

There are plenty of risks out there.
Alcohol use is one of them.
Driving a car is another.
As soon as you leave the house, you will encounter risk.
It is a part of life.
Let’s all lock down and kill the economy forever.
Then we can all die of hunger.
Solid plan.

Its sad that a decision was taken without any warning or date for closure not taking into consideration how it would impact small and large businesses,not to say that many people are now jobless,the day it was announced i had a prediction that people would break in to alcohol stores and the very next day that happened.The fact that taxis can operate 100 percent is rubbish because they are the ones causing major accidents on the road with no regards to road regulations.I am very fearful everytime i.m on the road and a taxi is close by majority of them causes accidents which not alcohol related.

And may i say before this pandemic no one had this issues of alcohol its been there for years, SA relies on the sale of Alcohol due to the fact that the western cape wine farms is one of the major wine distributors locally and internationally.So why is alcohol a issue now ,there was gender based violence even before the pandemic just a thought to consider,by totally cutting off SA from its major source of income for the economy is slowly crippling our economy not to mention the major loss of SAA and Eskom ,the increase of unemployment has risen.

End of comments.





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