Alcohol consumption is expected to peak next week as the ban on the sale of alcohol is lifted in Level 3 of the Covid-19 lockdown.
South Africans have resorted to extreme measures to deal with their thirst while they had no access to alcohol for more than eight weeks since the lockdown began, including paying exorbitant amounts for booze on the black market.
On Sunday, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that the sale of alcohol will be allowed on certain days, for limited hours.
A spike in alcohol-related problems is expected, such as driving under the influence and the possibility of workers arriving at work intoxicated.
ER24 spokesman Russel Meiring said there had been a massive decline in the number of incidents the medical emergency service provider had attended to during the first two levels of lockdown. Emergency services generally deal with a host of alcohol-related issues.
“The most common incidents that ER24 have responded to involving alcohol are driving under the influence, general trauma involving alcohol and domestic abuse,” he said. “ER24 saw a dramatic decline in the number of incidents we attended to.”
Meiring said ER24 was prepared for the move to Level 3 and the return of liquor sales.
Rhys Evans, managing director of Alco-safe, which supplies drug and alcohol testing equipment and accessories, said in a statement: “[Intoxication] is and always has been hazardous on the road and in the workplace, especially where dangerous equipment is used.
“However, in the current climate there is even greater risk. People who are intoxicated are less likely to follow social distancing requirements and hygiene practices, risking further spread of the virus.”
He said it was imperative that companies ensured workplaces were safe and tested their staff to ensure no one was under the influence of alcohol.
Since the standard testing mechanisms for alcohol were breathalysers and the coronavirus was spread through droplets, businesses needed to ensure they adapted their testing procedure.
It was essential to avoid physical contact between the person being tested and the breathalyser device, as well as between the instrument, the person being tested and the person doing the testing. The person manning the device should observe strict precautions, including washing and sanitising their hands and wearing gloves and a face mask.
He also advised using disposable straws to ensure there was no contact.
Evans said the corporate sector conducted more alcohol tests on average than the police and that this would be more important in coming weeks to ensure a safe work environment.