- Blog Post
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In a nationwide broadcast on July 12, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that he was reimposing the ban on alcohol and a curfew. Both measures were imposed earlier in the COVID-19 pandemic and were designed to ease the strain on hospitals and other medical facilities caused by automobile and other alcohol-related accidents and illnesses. They were unpopular, made worse by accompanying police brutality in their enforcement. Responding to the outcry, Ramaphosa lifted the ban on the sale of alcohol and eased other lockdown restrictions on June 1.
Ramaphosa's reasons for reimposing them remain the same as when they were initially imposed. In his July 12 evening speech, he referred to hospitals overcrowded by COVID-19 patients and a shortage of protective gear. The ban on alcohol will, presumably, reduce crowding in local bars and township shebeens. As in many other African countries, "social distancing" is difficult at best in overcrowded townships. Automobile ownership appears to be more widespread in South Africa than elsewhere on the continent and, accordingly, automobile accidents likely more frequent. (Credible comparative statistics are lacking.)
South Africa has been Africa's COVID-19 hot spot, with the country accounting for 47 percent of Africa’s recorded cumulative cases. Of course, South Africa also has one of the most extensive testing regimes on the continent, with over 2.2 million tests conducted out of a population of 58 million. The country has recorded 145,000 active cases. Initially, the disease was centered in the Western Cape, especially in the townships outside Cape Town. Now, however, the disease has spread nationwide, including in Johannesburg. Ramaphosa is a believer in science and he has a strong health minister. Despite the deleterious economic consequences for the already struggling economy, he probably saw that he had no choice but to reimpose unpopular restrictions.