Skip to content

Illustration by Security Management

South Africa Resumes Alcohol Sales Ban as COVID-19 Cases Spike

South Africa is resuming a ban on the sale of alcohol in the hopes of reducing the volume of trauma patients in local hospitals, which are already overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said that since the initial three-month ban on alcohol sales was lifted in June, hospitals have experienced a spike in admissions to trauma and emergency wards, largely due to car crashes, fights, and domestic violence, according to the BBC. At the same time, COVID-19 cases increased dramatically—South Africa is now the ninth most affected country in the pandemic, according to Johns Hopkins University.

In the first week of July, 99,319 new COVID-19 cases had been reported throughout Africa, according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—a 25 percent increase compared to the previous week’s report. South Africa accounted for nearly 62 percent of those new cases. South Africa has also recorded 4,079 coronavirus-related deaths, 25 percent of which have been in the past week, Ramaphosa said during a nationally televised address Sunday night.

Modeling has forecast between 40,000 and 80,000 COVID-19 deaths in the country by the end of 2020, the AP reported last week. One provincial official told reporters that the Gauteng region—an epicenter of the outbreak with more than 30 percent of the country’s cases—is preparing room for 1.5 million graves. South Africa isn’t expecting to reach its peak of COVID-19 cases until sometime between the end of July and September.

In his address, Ramaphosa sharply criticized citizens who continued to have crowded social gatherings during the crisis. “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 places without masks,” he said.

The ban on alcohol sales, combined with a nighttime curfew and compulsory outdoors mask-wearing, is meant to take pressure off the national healthcare system, enabling it to cope with the influx of COVID-19 patients, the AP reports.

In his statement, Ramaphosa emphasized the human behavior at the root of the pandemic’s rapid spread: “This may be a disease that is caused by a virus, but it is spread by human conduct and behavior. We are in the midst of a deadly pandemic, and we must act accordingly, in line with the prevention measures we continue to communicate. We are all required to be responsible, careful, and compassionate. The truth is that we are not helpless in the face of this storm.”