The liquor industry says the South African government will need to change its approach and consider new data before choosing to implement future alcohol bans.
In a statement released Thursday, April 8, the South African Association of Alcohol Brand Owners (Salba) cited a new report which showed that while cases of trauma in South Africa declined during the lockdown, the the difference was minimal compared to countries that did not introduce a ban. on alcohol.
The report was led by independent data expert Ian McGorian of Silver Fox Consulting, in collaboration with Professor Mike Murray of the University of KwaZulu-Natal, and with financial support from Distell.
The analysis showed that trauma cases in South Africa under lockdown fell by 60%.
However, other countries without an alcohol ban also experienced a similar phenomenon, notably the United Kingdom (-57%), Ireland (-62%), Italy (-56.6%) and United States (-54%), raising questions about the effectiveness of the alcohol ban.
The researchers further noted that the data shows that the curfew could have played an even greater role in decreasing trauma cases over the period than the alcohol bans – again calling into question the measures and research that the government was doing or using to justify the bans.
As members of the liquor industry recognized the impact alcohol has on South African society, they said the government needed to take a more objective stance on its lockdown regulations.
Salba President Sibani Mngadi said the latest ban on the sale of alcohol for home consumption over Easter weekend, while increasing the size of permitted gatherings, made even less sense as a way to reduce the risk of new Covid-19 infections.
He said he was suggesting that the government not take a scientific approach in its decision-making.
This was echoed by National Liquor Traders Council (NLTC) official Lucky Ntimane, who said the analysis showed the conventional wisdom on which the government made decisions on alcohol bans and proposed stricter regulations. liquor was imperfect.
“The Covid-19 pandemic is disrupting our country, its people and the economy, and we are appalled at the loss of human life.
“But we don’t think implementing permanent alcohol bans is the answer, and this analysis clearly shows the need for a more balanced approach.
“We have worked with the liquor industry to put in place a number of initiatives aimed at reducing the harm caused by alcohol abuse, ensuring compliance with Covid-19 protocols and license conditions. alcohol among traders. “
A more objective approach is needed
Distell chief executive Richard Rushton said the industry is simply asking that an objective view of the data be taken in order to facilitate a more meaningful dialogue with decision makers.
“We are all on the same side and we want to help find solutions. We are very convinced that alcohol abuse is unacceptable and causes harm. We believe that the focus should be on finding ways to treat high risk drinkers, rather than using blunt instruments that penalize all South Africans.
“Any proposed new regulations must be evidence-based, rational and problem-focused,” he said.
Business Leadership SA Managing Director Busisiwe Mavuso said alcohol industry bans could have been better handled, resulting in more than 220,000 job losses with billions of rand in taxes lost to profit the tax authorities, while the uncertainty for alcohol producers due to the bans was a real problem.
“Decisions made to deal with the health crisis should not have unintended consequences on the economy, and that is exactly what happened with the alcohol ban,” she said. .
Mavuso added that companies have, since the start of the pandemic, been a willing partner with the government and “must be part of the solution to ensure that we fight this pandemic with the least possible damage to the economy.”
“The analysis of data by the alcohol industry is an important intervention and should be taken seriously as we move forward.”
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