South Africa’s biggest liquor makers have offered to help get people to drink less after the government banned the sale of alcohol for a second time this year, citing health concerns.
The surprise decision to reintroduce the prohibition hit the industry hard, according to the manufacturers’ spokesman Sibani Mngadi. It lost almost 117 000 jobs during the first moratorium that began in March and ended June 1, he said.
The government says the latest ban is aimed at reducing alcohol-related hospital admissions as the surging number of coronavirus cases strains emergency wards. The industry, which has introduced responsible-drinking programs in the past, now wants to work more closely with the state and civil society groups to identify and resolve problems.
“Based on research and credible current data,” the companies want to “jointly design interventions targeting these key areas with enhanced current programs and new measurable and evidence-based initiatives,” Mngadi said in a statement.
The first ban on alcohol sales was implemented on March 27, when the government introduced a nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus. The Department of Health released a report July 14 showing the restrictions that were in place in that period reduced the number of trauma cases at hospitals by as much as half.
In the six weeks since the lockdown eased on June 1, the government said there have been reports of a rise in drinking-related accidents.
The industry wants to scrutinise the data cited by the government to better understand how it can help intervene to address the issues that cause excess drinking, some of which preceded the pandemic, Mngadi said.
As many as 80 000 small businesses ranging from farmers to craft brewers may be on the verge of collapse as a direct result of the alcohol ban, Richard Rushton, chief executive officer of wine and spirits maker Distell Group said in May. When sales resumed in June, drinks were sold from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Monday to Thursday and could only be consumed at home.
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