Citizen Reporter
3 minute read
28 Jan 2021
3:11 pm

Government’s booze ban argument no longer holds water, says alcohol body

Citizen Reporter

Salba says the R13 billion loss in alcohol tax revenue could have 'easily compensated' for vaccine investments and assisted with other measures to curb the spread of Covid-19.

Photo for illustration. Picture: Twitter/@JoburgMPD

The South African Liquor Brand owners Association (Salba) believes it has come up with yet another reason why government should lift the current restrictions on alcoholic beverages. 

The National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) has provided data on hospitalisations due to Covid-19, some of which shows decreases across the country.  

“Available data does not back government’s argument that the current prohibition of sale of alcohol is being maintained to preserve the maximum capacity in the health system to handle a surge in Covid-19 admissions,” said Salba chairperson Sibani Mngadi. 

This as Cabinet remained mum on the burning topic of the booze ban.

On Thursday, acting Minister in the Presidency, Khumbudzo Ntshavheni briefed the media on the latest Cabinet Lekgotla and she did not mention whether they would discuss the Adjusted Alert Level 3 Lockdown regulations that have seen several organisations call for the further opening of the economy by allowing alcohol sales and the relaxation of the national curfew.

ALSO READ: Continued booze ban could see illegal markets plague SA’s post-Covid economy, says study

Salba’s statement however said there was a 22.9% decrease of laboratory confirmed Covid-19 infections in the Free State, 47.3% in KwaZulu-Natal, “and up to 50% in the Western Cape“.

Mngadi said the decrease in infections was welcomed, and should come along with an urgent reversal in the prohibition of alcohol sales. 

“In the Western Cape over the past two weeks, the number of active Covid-19 cases in the Western Cape declined by more than 50%, dropping from about 40,000 to around 19,000 cases.”

Western Cape hospitalisations. Picture: NICD/Salba

“Similarly, the number of daily hospitalisations amongst facilities reporting, in week two and three also dropped from 3 125 to 735 [76.5% decrease],” Salba’s statement read. 

Gauteng saw a drop in daily hospitalisations from 3838 to 1190, a decrease of 69%. 

Gauteng hospitalisations. Picture: NICD/Salba

They said the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal saw a 66% decrease. 

Eastern Cape hospitalisations. Picture: NICD/Salba

KZN hospitalisations. Image: NICD/Salba

For Salba, government’s argument no longer holds water, especially because there are significant losses currently being experienced within the alcohol sector. 

“With the first two bans, alcohol excise tax contribution to government declined by more than 28% from R47 billion in 2019-2020 to R34 billion in 2020-2021.

“This R13 billion loss in alcohol tax revenue could have easily compensated for the investment needed in procurement of vaccines and other measures needed to curb the impact of Covid-19 on our society,” said Mngadi.

Mngadi explained that the industry’s efforts to collaborate with government to find and apply “effective alternative measures” addressing issues of alcohol abuse, notably during the pandemic, had been consistent. 

He said that the sector was continuing “to seek a social compact with the government, industry, and civil society to continue the sector’s vital economic activity, save businesses and jobs while ensuring its workers’ safety, promote responsible train and the sensible consumption of alcohol”.

Compiled by Nica Richards

For more news your way, download The Citizen’s app for iOS and Android.