- Premier Oscar Mabuyane wants national government to bring back a ban on alcohol in his province.
- This after a massive rise in alcohol-related cases, and the danger it poses to fighting the spread of Covid-19.
- The Eastern Cape is also looking at dividing its hotspots into sub-districts to ease the burden of the rising spread.
Eastern Cape Premier Oscar Mabuyane will lobby national government to reinstate a liquor ban under Level 3 lockdown for his province, due to fears that alcohol will harm the battle against Covid-19 infections.
Mabuyane will petition the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, to have the ban on alcohol reintroduced in his province.
Speaking to News24 on Monday, Mabuyane said the province had seen a surge in alcohol-related incidents since the country moved to Level 3.
"We had high incidents on our roads, and we had a lot of reports of gender-based violence on the basis that people were drunk. It is really not about people enjoying themselves. It has contributed to moral decay. It has really eroded our societal moral fibre," he claimed.
Mabuyane said his provincial command council had also seen a strain on the public health system. He added that, to avoid the spread of the virus, the government needed to be extra cautious.
Since the resumption of alcohol, provincial reports from 1 June until 7 June also indicated a surge in people contravening lockdown regulations, he said.
During this period of time, the province recorded 3 141 cases linked to alcohol, Mabuyane told News24. It included 25 cases of culpable homicide, 94 cases of murder, 355 assault with grievous bodily harm cases, 42 cases of attempted murder, 51 cases of drunk driving and 25 cases of accidents under the influence.
"These are issues we are raising to national government for them to see and consider. We want the National [Coronavirus] Command Council (NCCC), as it sits and looks at issues and challenges, that it looks at that as well."
Mabuyane added that he had raised the concern with the NCCC prior to the lifting of the ban. However, there was a consideration that people would adhere to regulations.
"The fact that people are still drinking liquor and driving is a complete disregard of the regulations. It's a question of societal behaviour of people who are recalcitrant on the regulations that have been out. It's not like these issues are not raised. Everyone knows that liquor is a problem.
"Remember it's also active in economic development, a lot of people are employed out of that space. It has got a good and bad, but under the circumstances when are our hospitals, our trauma units are now getting overwhelmed, we must be busy trying to deal with pressing matters," he said.
Currently, the province has 101 Covid-19 deaths, 5 974 infections and 2 666 recoveries.
Health Minister Zweli Mkhize had raised concerns last week over the spread of the virus in the Eastern Cape. He said it was copying the trend of the Western Cape.
In May, Mkhize explained how provincial districts would be assigned a lockdown level, saying the government had adapted its approach to combating Covid-19 and shifted its focus to be narrower.
"The time has now come to look forward to the horizon and take bold steps to beat the virus. The government has thus prepared a district-based approach to its Covid-19 response, moving away from a one-size-fits-all method."
This would mean each district of the province could move alert levels, depending on its infection rate.
As part of the new approach, local government, civil society, religious organisations and community policing forums will be empowered to enforce and monitor compliance with the lockdown.