Preparation for a third wave should be based on science and past experience

Media Release

  • There is an urgent need to intensify the COVID-19 vaccine roll out
  • Limiting the size of gatherings and adherence to health protocols are most effective measures to contain infections
  • Alcohol bans implemented by government were not supported by health experts in the Ministerial Advisory Council

The South African Liquor Brandowners Association (SALBA) and Vinpro have urged Government to rely on the scientific advice of its own panel of health experts in the Ministerial Advisory Council (MAC) in responding to the surge in COVID-19 cases and the potential third wave of the pandemic.

SALBA Chairperson Sibani Mngadi said the recent rise in the infection rate was a great concern and called on the government to step up the vaccination programme. “The industry has repeatedly said it is willing to provide whatever logistical assistance the government requires to achieve this huge operational undertaking.”

The targeted population herd immunity threshold is 29 million adults, which it must achieve before the end of the year to avoid significantly higher numbers of COVID-related deaths. To achieve this, South Africa must vaccinate 250 000 to 300 000 people per day.

Vinpro MD Rico Basson said that the surge in daily cases of infections was a warning to everyone to remain vigilant and adhere to health protocols. “We know that following the basics—social distancing, hand sanitising and wearing a mask in public—is still the first line of defence against infection.”

This advice was supported by research carried out by the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) [1]and the universities of Stellenbosch, Cape Town and Wits. It found that limiting the size and frequency of gatherings, ensuring proper ventilation, wearing masks, and handwashing would effectively push back the third wave.

The alcohol industry has waged strong campaigns with its clients and customers to ensure that these health regulations and protocols are enforced.

Government deviated from recommendations of the MAC in dealing with the second wave of COVID-19 during the December festive season by implementing a full on ban on alcohol sales from 28 December 2020 to 01 February 2021.

Government further considered banning alcohol during Easter, culminating in the restrictions of sales for off consumption over the Easter weekend. “Government has never provided any rationale behind its decisions to restrict alcohol sales for home consumption over weekend,” said Mngadi.

“The cumulative impact of all these alcohol restrictions is devastating for the economy, putting at risk at least 200 200 jobs supported by the alcohol value chain. Sales revenue lost as a result of the bans was approximately R36.3 billion. The country’s annualised GDP loss due to the prohibitions is about R51.9 billion. The tax revenue loss (excluding excise) to the fiscus from the value chain arising from the bans amounts to R29.3 billion,” added Basson.

He reiterated that the industry had stepped up programmes to promote the responsible consumption of alcohol and bring about a behavioural change in our society’s attitude towards the abuse of alcohol.

“We are committed to playing our role in the economic recovery of SA. We continue to seek a social compact with the government, industry, and civil society to promote responsible trading and sensible alcohol consumption. Open and transparent discussions on strategy and implementation should be the starting point,” said Mngadi.

Issued by FTI Consulting on behalf of:

Issued by FTI Consulting on behalf of the South African Liquor Brandowners Association (SALBA) and Vinpro. For interviews, or further information, please contact:

salba@fticonsulting.com

 

[1]    https://www.nicd.ac.za/diseases-a-z-index/covid-19/covid-19-prevention/

https://www.nicd.ac.za/diseases-a-z-index/covid-19/advice-for-the-public/covid-19-frequently-asked-questions-masks/