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Health versus economy – Trauma cases plummet under alcohol ban

Hospitals in major urban areas reported over the New Year that trauma admissions had plummeted following South Africa’s third alcohol ban, writes MedicalBrief. The alcohol restrictions are due to be reviewed on 15 January 2021 and this will place government in the awkward position (again) of trade-offs between health and the economy.

This week The South African described Police Chief Bheki Cele as being ambivalent about whether the restrictions – announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa on 28 December 2020 – should be continued.

Several publications reported the immediate positive effect of the ban on cases of trauma and on hospitals overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients. Below are excerpts of media reports on this issue as well as Cele’s recent comments:


Bheki Cele on alcohol ban: ‘We cannot keep the economy closed’

Well, writes Tom Head in The South African on 5 January 2021: “Bheki Cele might well have changed his tune on the alcohol ban. The minister hinted that booze restrictions may soon run their course”.

Head wrote that Cele had passed up an opportunity to ram home the ills of liquor on Tuesday, and instead, struck a more reserved tone when asked about the future of the alcohol ban. “The police minister admitted that he did not know if the prohibition on booze should continue – and seemed to be genuinely concerned about the economic ramifications.”

The alcohol ban was brought in just before New Year’s Eve, according to The South African, “and the impact seems to have been instant. Trauma cases in several hospitals plummeted, freeing up vital capacity and staff resources for patients desperately battling against the effects of the coronavirus.

“This factor is not lost on Bheki Cele, who branded this achievement as a historic one. But for the time being, the top cop is laying off the booze traders.”

See below for a link to the full story.


Massive drop in trauma cases attributed to nationwide alcohol ban

South Africa banned liquor sales amid a coronavirus surge. In addition to the alcohol ban, the new restrictions include the closure of all beaches and public swimming pools in infectious hotspots as well as a curfew extension, reported Riyaz Patel for The South African on 2 January 2021. He wrote:

“Health care practitioners in Gauteng and the Western Cape say the near-empty trauma units in many facilities, a direct result of the nationwide alcohol ban, mean they can now focus on the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Ramaphosa announced on 28 December that the sale of alcohol from retail outlets and the on-site consumption of alcohol at restaurants would be prohibited under enhanced lockdown level 3 regulations, along with a raft of other directives. Medical experts had warned that the country’s health system was at risk of being overwhelmed due to the rapidly rising coronavirus cases coupled with those needing urgent care due to alcohol-fuelled incidents.

In Gauteng, The South African story continues, Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in Johannesburg said it admitted no patients to its trauma and rescue unit on New Year’s day – a historic first for Africa’s largest hospital. Management there thanked Ramaphosa for imposing level 3 lockdown regulations, Eye Witness News reported.

The Western Cape Health Department said it also saw a massive drop in trauma emergencies in public hospitals in Cape Town and rural districts, said the department’s Marika Champion. “We are still collating numbers but reports indicate a significant drop in trauma cases,” The South African reported her a saying.

“These include motor vehicle crashes and violent trauma cases which usually accompany public holidays. Trauma cases are usually very time consuming and labour intensive. This reduction helped us to cope with the significant load of COVID cases in our hospitals.”

According to a report from The Associated Press, South Africa saw a drop of as much as 60% in trauma cases at hospitals after prior bans on liquor sales in April and May 2020.

See below for a link to the full story.


After Bara’s good news, KZN hospitals also report fewer New Year’s trauma cases

KZN Premier Sihle Zikalala thanked residents for adhering to lockdown regulations, which he said allowed hospital staff to focus on other patients, wrote Nkosikhona Duma for Eye Witness News on 4 January 2021, continuing:

South Africa marked New Year under level three lockdown restrictions with a 9pm curfew and a complete ban on alcohol sales. “The alcohol ban and curfew are having an effect in KwaZulu-Natal, with the some of the province's biggest hospitals reporting a lower intake of trauma patients during the New Year weekend,” said Zikalala.

Eye Witness News continues: “At this time of year, hospitals are usually overwhelmed by alcohol-related injuries. But due to the current lockdown restrictions, the picture was different this festive season. Trauma units treat victims of incidents such as stabbings, gunshots and car crashes.

Premier Sihle Zikalala thanked KZN residents for adhering to the regulations, saying it allowed healthcare workers to invest scarce resources where they were needed most. “On New Year's Eve and New Year's Day some of our busiest hospitals in the province reported a very low intake of patients. Their emergency and trauma units were virtually empty.”


[link url=""]The South African – Bheki Cele on alcohol ban: ‘We cannot keep the economy closed’[/link]


[link url=""]The South African – Massive drop in trauma cases attributed to nationwide alcohol ban[/link]


[link url=""]Eye Witness News – Level 3 lockdown, alcohol ban has led to drop in trauma unit cases[/link]


[link url=""]Eye Witness News – After Bara’s good news, KZN hospitals also report fewer New Year’s trauma cases[/link]



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