By Kaya 959 News
The Southern African Alcohol Policy Alliance (SAAPA) in SA is calling on the government to strengthen the current alcohol restrictions in light of the looming third wave.
On Friday, Gauteng Premier David Makura announced that the province has officially entered the third wave of the coronavirus.
KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga, the North West and the Western Cape have also noticed a sustained spike in new infections.
SAAPA SA Director, Maurice Smithers, said they have seen the additional burden on the healthcare system caused by trauma cases related to harmful drinking, car crashes and acts of violence.
“Alcohol consumption should not aggravate the predicted impact of the third wave. Also, when people consume alcohol, their ability to adhere to Covid-19 protocols – wearing masks, maintaining social distancing and washing hands – can be diminished and contribute to the spreading of the virus,” Smithers said.
Infections on rise
Although Health Minister, Dr Zweli Mkhize, said the country is not technically experiencing a third wave yet, he warned that the numbers are likely to climb. Mkhize further encouraged provinces to intensify their response programmes to limit the increase in infections.
“Government will now have some tough decisions to make to curb a resurgence in infections. We believe it is best to act sooner rather than later and that the government should not wait until the health system becomes overburdened before restrictions are introduced,” Smithers said.
Smithers said strengthening restrictions will limit pressure on hospitals and keep the infection rate down.
“It will save lives and avoid having to resort to harsher emergency measures such as imposing a complete ban on alcohol and causing avoidable economic hardship,” Smithers said.
SAAPA SA supports vaccine roll-out
Smithers said they have noted the alcohol industry’s concerns about a possible new ban in response to the anticipated third wave.
“The Alliance maintains that, if the industry wants to avoid future bans, it should stop opposing the adoption by the government of new legislation. An amended Liquor Act would mean better long-term regulation of the distribution, trading and marketing of alcohol, a change for the better in social drinking norms, and a reduction in the economic and social burden of alcohol-attributable harm on the country,” he said.
The SAAPA SA fully supports the government’s vaccine roll-out programme which aims to immunise at least 67% of the population to achieve herd immunity.
“We encourage all South Africans to get vaccinated as soon as the opportunity arises – when you get vaccinated, you are protecting not only yourself, but all those around you as well,” Smithers said.
Phase 1 of the vaccination process correctly targeted the country’s dedicated health workers who have been putting their own lives on the line while working to save the lives of others.
“We are pleased to see that the government is now moving into Phase 2 which aims to reach the most vulnerable in our communities – all people aged 60 and above and those with comorbidities. Phase 3 will hopefully see everyone else vaccinated and the country on the road to normality,” Smithers said.