Following the recent lifting of the Covid-19 sales ban, the spotlight has now moved to responsible alcohol consumption. In addition, the alcohol industry is asking what consumers can do to prevent another ban amid the pandemic.
Insiders say while the alcohol industry is committed to reducing the harmful use of alcohol and to play a role in economic recovery, alcohol consumers play the biggest role in keeping the industry’s doors open.
Kurt Moore, chief executive of the South African Liquor Brand Owners Association (Salba), says the industry promotes the well-being of the country’s citizens.
“[However, alcohol] consumers can play their part by consuming our products responsibly and adhering to the health protocols when consuming our products at home or at on-site consumption venues.”
With alcohol sales now allowed at restaurants and liquor stores, the Beer Association of South Africa (Basa) says it is important to reflect on what brought the industry to this position in the first place.
An age-old problem
Basa CEO Patricia Pillay says, “This age-old problem in the country of people binge-drinking and abusing alcohol is, unfortunately, not going to be fixed overnight by Covid-19 legislation and banning of the trade.
“It requires a far deeper intervention by all the social partners [which includes] government, labour, business, and community.”
Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, government has expressed its concern that alcohol abuse leads to violence and accidents that places further strain on the healthcare system. The government has, however, not provided any data to support this claim.
The alcohol industry does acknowledge, though, that many people lose their inhibitions when they drink and often forgot about social distancing and mask-wearing which puts people at risk.
Those who suffer with alcohol addiction need long-term support and banning alcohol only leads them to taking more harsh substances, Pillay believes.
Time to flip the script
Basa beer relations manager Apiwe Nxusani-Mawela says it is time to flip the script. The focus should be on the role that the industry, retailers, brewers and consumers can play in balancing lives versus livelihoods. This would greatly benefit responsible alcohol consumption.
“What can we do to save lives and reduce infections numbers? Things like making sure that [liquor] outlets are compliant and monitor people while they are sitting and enjoying their products,” says Nxusani-Mawela.
The industry is encouraging its members to trade responsibility with the highest safety standards in place, ensuring they always enforce the wearing of masks, social distancing and hand and surface sanitising.
Pillay adds they have a zero tolerance for those that break the Covid-19 lockdown regulations.
“We assured government that we would not service or supply any outlet that was in breach of any lockdown rules and had their licenses revoked.
“It is critical, however, that as South Africans we all take personal responsibility to support the national effort to curb the spread of Covid-19 and safeguard our economy. This includes getting vaccinated.”