For more than 140 days over the past 12 months, South Africans were unable to legally buy booze due to COVID-19 restrictions. The divisive regulation was practically unique to our nation, and following FOUR separate alcohol bans, the liquor industry has been brought to its knees. And yet, after all that… it might have all been a complete waste of our time.

South Africa trauma numbers ‘not driven by booze limitations’

A new study has poked some massive holes in the government’s logic. Those serving in the National Coronavirus Command Council have consistently argued that trauma cases in our hospitals decline when an alcohol ban is in place – yet their reasoning somewhat falls apart, when you weigh our numbers against countries that did not enforce prohibition.

The peer-reviewed data analysis, led by independent data expert Ian McGorian of Silver Fox Consulting, in collaboration with Professor Mike Murray from the University of KwaZulu-Natal, also analyses figures shared by SAPS last year. Booze has been blamed for fuelling a rise in violent crimes – but the data from our very own police force tells a very different story.

Key findings from the alcohol ban study:

  • – Trauma cases in SA under lockdown, when an alcohol ban was in place, dropped by 60%.
  • – However, other countries without an alcohol ban also experienced a similar phenomenon.
  • – Cases in the UK dropped by 57%, Whereas the US and Italy saw trauma submissions drop by 54% – 57%.
  • – Ireland, traditionally a nation with a rich drinking culture, saw their trauma cases drop by 62% – which is more than Mzansi’s.
  • – Meanwhile, the SAPS Annual Report 2019-2020 shows that alcohol is confirmed only in a small percentage of cases.
  • – Just 5.4% of sexual offences, 5.3% of assaults, and 6.7% of murders have been ‘influenced by alcohol’.

Curfews, not alcohol bans, the reason for trauma case decline

Should the ANC government choose to enforce another alcohol ban ahead of the predicted third wave of COVID-19 forecast for winter, anyone hoping to mount a potential legal challenge may be tempted to make these findings ‘Exhibit A’.

So, if prohibition isn’t driving these dips in trauma admissions, what is?

Sibani Mngadi reckons that ‘limitations on mobility’ played a massive role in easing the burden on our emergency wards during the peaks of the virus. The SA Liquor Brand Owners Association (SALBA) chairperson observes that there has never been an alcohol ban without a curfew OR other strict regulations that prevent people from ‘moving freely’.

“Let’s just take trauma as one example. Countries around the world show the same pattern of reduced trauma admissions to hospitals during lockdowns, without an alcohol ban. This suggests that lockdowns and curfews, rather than alcohol bans, are more strongly associated with a drop in trauma admissions.”

“Further, it is clear that mobility tracks hospital admissions, and trauma admissions drop when people are at home and under curfew rather than being out and about. Similarly, contact crimes fell during the first lockdown in South Africa. We believe the results of the in-depth analysis that has been undertaken are very revealing.”

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Presh JM Reporter

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