South Africa imposes another ban on alcohol sales

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced the country’s fourth ban on alcohol sales since the Covid-19 pandemic began.

Ramaphosa moved the country to Alert Level 4, meaning bars must remain closed and retailers cannot sell beer, wines and spirits. The ban started at midnight and it will run for the next two weeks.

In a televised address to the nation, Ramaphosa said it was necessary to ease the pressure on hospitals brought by emergency incidents related to drinking. 

The Beer Association of South Africa told Bloomberg it would seek legal advice on the ban, which would represent a “death knell” for many businesses.

“The previous three alcohol bans have devastated thousands of small businesses,” it added in a statement. “Many more businesses will now find themselves on the brink of closure.”

Wines of South Africa said the trade is “deeply disturbed” by the ban.

South Africa reported more than 90,000 new Covid-19 cases last week – its largest increases in since January.

“We are in the grip of a devastating wave that by all indications seems like it will be worse than all those that preceded it, its peak looks set to be higher than the previous waves,” said Ramaphosa. “The measures we are putting in place now are designed to allow as much economic activity to continue as possible while containing the spread of the virus.”

Ramaphosa banned alcohol sales on three separate occasions last year in a bid to “reduce domestic violence and decrease hospital admissions” during the pandemic, but the bans drew widespread criticism from the industry, and from trade bodies in export markets, including Spirits Europe.