Hospitals face flood of alcohol-related trauma cases amid calls to reintroduce booze ban

The Western Cape has seen a spike in Covid-19 deaths over the past several days as the province remains the coronavirus epicentre in South Africa.

As of 7 June, the province has reported 31,824 cases and 17,366 recoveries – around a third (65.9%) of all reported coronavirus cases in the country.

Total deaths in the province now stand at 774, with more than 200 deaths reported in the last week alone, including 45 new deaths out of a total of 46 countrywide deaths over the past 24 hours.

The move to level 3 lockdown and the resumption of alcohol sales in the Western Cape has also led to a direct increase in trauma admissions in the province’s hospitals, said Premier Alan Winde.

In a message published on Twitter on Monday (8 June), Winde said that the increase in alcohol-related admissions is particularly damaging as the province prepares for an influx in coronavirus cases.

“We have spent all this time and energy to makes sure that our health response is ready, we fought really hard to make sure that we get to level 3 in this province and now I’m being let down.

“We cannot allow this to happen, we have got to make sure that responsibility is taken up. This is a partnership between government and the citizens.”

Alcohol a big problem

Winde’s comments echo statements from Eastern Cape premier Oscar Mabuyane, who last week noted that hospitals in the province have seen a sharp spike in trauma cases directly related to alcohol abuse.

Mabuyane said that he was alarmed to see long queues at liquor stores, and said it would likely increase the rate of infection in the province – which is the second-hardest hit after the Western Cape.

He said that the province would lobby the national government to reintroduce the alcohol ban if things did not improve.

“We are hopeful that such scenes won’t be a constant feature in our province going forward, because we would be left with no choice but to lobby the national government to prohibit the sale of alcohol again.

“Protecting lives is more important than alcohol sales,” he said.

On Monday Mabuyane repeated the comments, saying that alcohol is a major problem.

“Alcohol is a problem generally. We as a province say we will have to go back to government and lobby to close down this problem,” he said. “We can’t be a country that celebrates liquor in the manner in which we have seen – with demonstrating and singing. It is really unfortunate.”

Help needed

Data published by South African Medical Research Council on 2 June shows that the national weekly number of deaths from all causes remains lower than expected based on historical data.

This is mainly due to the decline in the number of deaths from unnatural causes, as well as a slight decrease in the number of natural deaths during the weeks of lockdown.

However, the group noted that the weekly number of deaths from natural causes in the City of Cape Town exceeds the predicted number of deaths by about 25% in the week up until 26 May 2020.

This increase is somewhat above the upper prediction bound – the best possible accuracy – indicating a statistically significant increase, the group said.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has also raised concerns about the impact of the coronavirus on the Western Cape.

Following a visit there last week, Ramaphosa said that the province used the lockdown to better prepare for a peak in coronavirus cases, but concerns still remained.

“Even with the preparations they have made, (the province) will need more bed capacity as the disease reaches its peak. They need help from outside the province, including additional funding and health personnel,” he said.

“This provides the clearest evidence yet that we are correct to treat coronavirus as a national disaster. We must mobilise and deploy all the necessary resources we have in the country. We need an integrated strategy that brings together the national, provincial and local spheres of government.”

Ramaphosa further called on individual households to do more in the coming weeks to meet the expected demand. “Over the coming weeks, as we watch the coronavirus infections continue to rise, we must remember that we are not helpless.

“And we should remember one simple, but fundamental, message: Don’t be alarmed. Be prepared,” he said.

Read: South Africa will hit major coronavirus milestone this week: Ramaphosa

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Hospitals face flood of alcohol-related trauma cases amid calls to reintroduce booze ban