Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu has confirmed to the Sunday Times that the government is not considering reinstating the alcohol ban.
This is despite a number of premiers and local government figures calling for the alcohol ban to be revisited due to its adverse impact on the health system.
Gauteng premier David Makhura recently said that his provincial government would make a decision in the coming days as to whether it will call for the reinstatement of an alcohol ban in the province.
Makhura argued that the reintroduction of the sale of alcohol under South Africa’s level 3 lockdown has led to a direct increase in trauma-related cases.
Speaking to the Sunday Times, Mthembu said that the decision to allow the sale of alcohol would not be reconsidered.
“The decision of cabinet stands,” Mthembu said. “It is not a thing up for reviewal; we have not discussed the reviewal of those measures. Not at all.”
Hospitals under strain
One of the biggest impacts of the sale of liquor cited by those who wish for the ban to be reinstated is its effect on South African hospitals.
Following the lifting of the alcohol ban as level 3 lockdown regulations came into effect from 1 June, the country’s hospitals have seen a sharp spike in alcohol-related trauma cases.
Trauma admissions had decreased by 70% at Western Cape and Gauteng hospitals during level 4 lockdown, but the lifting of the alcohol ban is seeing this improvement reversed significantly.
The South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) predicted that about 5,000 patients will visit hospitals each week with injuries that are related to the consumption of alcohol.
Liquor stores have also seen significant demand across the country – on the first day of level 3 lockdown, many physical liquor stores had large queues forming outside.
Online sales were also affected, with local retailers stating that demand on 1 June rivalled that of Black Friday.
South Africa’s lockdown regulations have come under attack recently, with a ruling by the Gauteng High Court declaring the COVID-19 alert level 4 and level 3 regulations unconstitutional and invalid.
The court gave Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma fourteen business days to review and republish a new set of regulations.
Judge Norman Davis said that this must be done “with due consideration to the limitation each regulation has on the rights guaranteed in the Bill of Rights contained in the Constitution”.
The South African government subsequently announced it would appeal the ruling, and it simultaneously extended the National State of Disaster until 15 July 2020.
“After obtaining legal advice and listening to numerous comments made by members of the legal fraternity in reaction to this judgement, we are of the view that another court might come to another conclusion on the matter,” Mthembu said.
The government said it will ask that its appeal is heard on an urgent basis so that the country can gain certainty on the regulations.