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Covid-19 graffiti (Photo: Adam Niescioruk on Unsplash)
24 July 2020

South Africa re-introduces alcohol ban

South Africa | To contain the spread of covid-19, the government has introduced new restrictions, including another ban on alcohol sales and a night-time curfew.

The wearing of masks outdoors has been made compulsory. Not wearing one is now a criminal offence.

The prohibition on alcohol sales, introduced on 12 July, is to last at least until the end of August. President Cyril Ramaphosa said that outlawing alcohol sales became necessary again to take pressure off the national healthcare system. Doctors and police said that the first ban had contributed to a sharp drop in emergency admissions to hospital. The crime rate had shrunk by 70 percent. However, once the ban was scrapped, hospital admissions surged again.

On-off prohibition

The alcohol ban comes just weeks after the previous nine-week long ban was lifted on 1 June, with booze sales permitted Mondays to Thursdays. Cigarettes are still illegal, although they continue to be available from smugglers at five times their regular price.

The new ban on alcohol sales has made the country’s brewers and wine makers complain that they are being driven out of business. It is feared that 30 percent to 40 percent of the country’s 180 or so craft brewers will have to close permanently. Even switching to non-alcoholic beer production is not an option for craft brewers, as these types of beverages aren’t exactly sought after in the market. Most likely, the larger craft breweries will survive, as will those owned by Heineken (Jack Black, Stellenbrau and Soweto Gold).

Restaurants are permitted to provide meal deliveries, but many chose to shut because their businesses are not viable under these conditions. Same with hotels, which are suffering from a dearth of tourists and business travellers.

Incidentally, sales of homebrewing equipment have risen in recent weeks.

South Africa hit hard by covid-19

By Saturday, 11 July, South Africa had seen a new surge in infections, with more than a quarter million of South Africans (out of a population of 58 million people) having been tested positive for coronavirus. Deaths resulting from the virus had reached more than 4,000, and government projections estimate this figure could hit 50,000 by the end of the year.