Health minister, Dr Zweli Mkhize has outlined government’s reasoning why it took the decision to reinstate the ban on the sale and distribution of alcohol in the country.
The alcohol restrictions in place are about limiting the damage that alcohol abuse tends to create, Mkhize said.
World Health Organisation data showed that 31% of the population aged 15 and older consume alcohol. And while this appears to be a relatively low number, Mkhize said, their consumption rate is among the highest in the world.
The country has a particularly high proportion of ‘binge drinkers’, he said.
Dr Mkhize said that alcohol-related trauma cases tend to be young and fit individuals who would otherwise not require hospitalisation, adding an unnecessary burden on facilities.
Data from level 4 and level 5 lockdown indicated a massive reduction in alcohol-related trauma. This has fed into the decision to reinstate the sales suspension, Mkhize said.
“Some of the modelling that was done to predict the impact of an alcohol ban showed that the suspension of alcohol sales could result in a 20% reduction in all trauma (cases) and 40% reduction in all alcohol-related trauma by the third week,” he said.
What about Taxis?
Mkhize said that while the initial lockdown was very successful in delaying the surge, it did have its challenges – specifically that it would not be sustainable, particularly around economic activity.
Compromises had to be made, and it’s now about getting people to co-exist with the virus, he said.
The numbers will rise, he warned, with the surge expected to hit around now, and is likely to last until September.
The minister said that studies done in China showed that the virus spreads very quickly when people sit in a small space for longer than 20 minutes. Air conditioning and poor ventilation can also contribute to the spread.
Clear ventilation, and the movement of air is helpful in combating the spread of the virus, he said.
This is why the new regulations specify that taxis should keep air circulated via open windows while in transit.
“Ideally, taxis shouldn’t operate without social distancing measures in place,” Mkhize said. However, this is not possible in South Africa because a large portion of the population relies on the taxis to get to work.
To mitigate the spread of the virus as much as possible in this compromise, Mkhize said that taxi operators have been educated around the spread of the virus, and made aware of how serious the matter is.
A number of measures will be put in place, including:
- Drivers will have to complete a daily symptom check and screening, and must wear masks at all times.
- Windows need to be wide open, but open enough to ensure the circulation of air.
- Taxi interior and surfaces need to be wiped down at least once per day.
- No person is allowed to use the taxi without wearing a mask.
- Outside of the taxis, all social distancing measures apply to operators and passengers.
Regarding the curfew, set between 21h00 and 04h00 daily, Dr Mkhize said that economic activity has been opened to save people from unemployment.
“A lot of activities take place after hours and outside of the workplace. The curfew was announced to limit the number of people who get infected. We can have the surge at a lower level by taking these steps,” he said.