South Africa Reinstates Alcohol Ban as Coronavirus Cases Soar

A man walks past a closed liquor shop in Soweto, on July 13, 2020. - South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on July 12, 2020 re-imposed a night curfew and suspended alcohol sales as COVID-19 coronavirus infections spiked and the health system risked being overwhelmed. (Photo by Michele Spatari / AFP) …
MICHELE SPATARI/AFP via Getty Images

The South African government has reimposed a nationwide ban on the sale of alcohol as part of renewed restrictions to combat a surge in Chinese coronavirus cases, the South African Government News Agency reported on Sunday.

Addressing the nation in a televised speech, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said that the number of coronavirus infections in the country has spiked recently.

“We are now recording over 12,000 new cases every day. That is the equivalent of 500 new infections every hour,” he said, according to the South African Government News Agency. Ramaphosa cited instances of people with coronavirus “being turned away from health facilities due to a lack of beds or essential supplies.”

“As we head towards the peak of infections, it is vital that we do not burden our clinics and hospitals with alcohol-related injuries that could have been avoided. This is a fight to save every life, and we need to save every bed,” Ramaphosa said.

According to South Africa’s News24, Ramaphosa remarked that “the resumption of alcohol sales [previously banned during an earlier coronavirus lockdown] has resulted in substantial pressure being put on hospitals, including trauma and intensive care units, due to [alcohol-related injuries from] motor vehicle accidents, violence, and related trauma.”

“Most of these and other trauma injuries occur at night. Therefore, as an additional measure to reduce the pressure on hospitals, a curfew will be put in place between the hours of 9:00 PM and 4:00 AM,” he added. The curfew will take effect Monday night.

Although Ramaphosa claims the country lacks sufficient hospital beds for coronavirus patients, News24 reported Monday that just one-third of government quarantine facilities — 139 out of 438 — have occupied beds. The government offers the facilities at no cost to patients. However, most coronavirus patients reportedly fear the stigma of having been quarantined in a government facility or have been unwilling to abandon their home and family to quarantine alone, leaving the facilities largely empty.

During his national address, the president criticized South Africans for blatantly flouting social distancing protocols during the ongoing pandemic, News24 reported.

“In the midst of our national effort to fight against this virus there are a number of people who have taken to organizing parties, who have drinking sprees, and some who walk around in crowded spaces without masks,” Ramaphosa said. “There are some of our people who see no problem attending funerals where the number of people in attendance exceed[s] the number of 50 that has been set out in regulations. In some cases, some people go to funerals where more than 1,000 people are in attendance,” he added.

“The grave threat posed by the coronavirus pandemic is not one of the urban areas alone, of the rich or of the poor. The passing of the Queen as a result of coronavirus serves as a stark reminder that none of us are immune,”  Ramaphosa said, according to News24.

At press time, South Africa reported a total of 276,242 infections and 4,079 deaths from the coronavirus.

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