Western Cape Health Department backs booze ban

Western Cape Health Department backs booze ban
The Provincial Health Data Centre of the Western Cape Department of Health and Wellness has launched a Western Cape Trauma and Injury Report - a ‘Safety Dashboard’ that aims to provide rapid access to data about injuries and deaths in the province. (Image source:

Alcohol-related trauma is putting a burden on the Western Cape’s health services, but that is not the only issue the province faces: There has been a reduction in patients taking up non-coronavirus health services such as immunisations and HIV screenings.

Western Cape provincial Health Department officials support the ban on alcohol, saying that alcohol abuse puts an additional burden on health resources. On Wednesday 15 July, the head of the department, Dr Keith Cloete, said the lifting of the ban on sales of alcohol had “depleted our ability to manage both trauma and Covid-19”.

Cloete and other officials from the department appeared virtually before the legislature’s ad hoc oversight committee on Covid-19, to provide a situational analysis on the virus in the province.

“From our perspective, the ban on alcohol is needed,” said Cloete. He said the increase in alcohol-related trauma admissions at hospitals along with Covid-19 had strained resources in the province.

Cloete said during the initial alcohol ban in April and May, there had been a 50% reduction in alcohol-related hospital admissions. Research by the department, Cloete said, showed that for one week at the end of May, almost three beds daily were taken up in ICU and high-care capacity. By the first week in June, when the ban on alcohol was lifted, 10 beds were being used.

“The link between trauma and alcohol has been established,” said Cloete.

But this was not the only worry for Cloete and his department. He said the department was concerned about the decrease in the following routine non-Covid-19 healthcare services:

  • TB/HIV screenings;
  • Immunisations for children;
  • Appointments; and
  • Surgeries such as circumcisions and cataract operations.

Surgeries were taking strain as healthcare professionals have to take social distancing and hygiene measures in theatres, said the HoD. Another concern was a drop of 20 to 50% in those who needed to access mental healthcare, which could potentially lead to relapses, warned Cloete. There was an urgent need to address the non-coronavirus service backlog, especially immunisations, said Cloete.

But when ANC committee member Cameron Dugmore told Cloete that he “looks slightly more relaxed than what he has been looking,” the HoD replied, “I am more relaxed.” Cloete said this was due to the work the health department and its officials have been doing to flatten the virus’s curve.

Cloete said the rates of infection, hospitalisations and deaths were starting to stabilise in the province. Initially, data had shown the virus peak in the province was supposed to be at the end of July, with initial projections showing 12,000 deaths related to Covid-19.  But new research showed the peak in the province was going to be longer, later and flatter.

It was “early days, but deaths and hospitalisations are starting to decline,” said Cloete.

By Wednesday evening (15 July), the province had 80,656 confirmed Covid-19 cases with 63,731 recoveries. There were 14,470 active cases with 2,455 coronavirus-related deaths. DM


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