The reopening of alcohol sales has placed a significant strain on hospital emergency rooms.
The Sunday Times reported that across the country, a massive surge of people in hospital emergency rooms with alcohol-related injuries has put additional strain on health-care numbers and filled up ICU beds needed for COVID-19 patients.
A hard lockdown was imposed at the end of March to curb the spread of COVID-19 while giving the government time to prepare the healthcare system for the expected spike in virus infections.
Level 3 of the lockdown began on 1 June and enabled the sale of alcohol.
The South African government implemented an alcohol sales ban early on when COVID-19 hit the country, as part of its public health response to contain the spread of the virus. The ban was intended to reduce the heavy alcohol burden on the country and specifically on the healthcare system.
According to the Sunday Times report during the first two months of lockdown, trauma admissions dropped by 70% at hospitals in Gauteng and the Western Cape. Those declines, according to the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC), are now being dramatically reversed.
Professor Elmin Steyn, Tygerberg Hospital’s head of surgery and the trauma unit, said alcohol plus Covid-19 “massively” reduced access to medical care for others.
“Patients having to wait for surgeries end up having to go to ICU. The problem is the ICU beds are filled with gravely ill Covid-19 patients,” she said.
For more read: ‘Nightmare’ at hospitals as alcohol takes its toll