The SA Medical Research Council (SAMRC) has released its model, used to justify the new alcohol ban, which projects that an eight-week ban would lead to an 18% reduction in trauma patients in hospitals and free up resources for Covid-19 patients.
The alcohol industry collectively asked the SAMRC on Monday for the modelling and calculations used by the health ministerial advisory committee (MAC) when it advised the government to ban alcohol again.
The eight-week time frame detailed in the model may give frustrated consumers an indication of how long they can expect to wait before they can buy alcohol again.
“We are happy to debate our numbers. They are defendable,” said Charles Parry, the MRC’S director at the alcohol, tobacco and other drug research unit.
Parry is adamant the model must be transparent — even though it wasn’t released before the ban was instituted.
In fact, the model presented to the government and the MAC argues that “sharing the model and the rationale behind the model is key to winning the public over”.
“It is imperative to maintain absolute transparency and inform the public of the rationale behind its decision to re-impose a ban or tighter restrictions,” it said.
After being given the go-ahead from ministerial advisory committee head Professor Salim Abdool-Karim on Friday morning to release his 6-page model, Parry wrote to the alcohol industry and said: “I have always been transparent as you will see from my tweets and in my interviews with the media. I am pleased to be able to do this now.”
However, there was no discussion with the industry prior to the ban being instituted last Sunday night. As a result, it was unforeseen by the industry, as well as small businesses like liquor outlets and shebeen owners, who are expected to be hardest hit.
The National Liquor Traders Council, representing 34,500 taverns, (the name given to legal licensed shebeens) wrote to President Cyril Ramaphosa this week fuming. “It was our expectation that as a president, who thrives on consultation, that we would at least have been consulted on such an important matter as this, which is literally our livelihood.”
The industry and the tavern owners feel the government needs to balance the aim of reducing trauma patients at hospitals with the cost to the economy and jobs reliant on alcohol production and sales.
Parry explains he was given the “remit” of modelling in a “day-and-a-half” what banning alcohol would do to alleviate the burden on hospital resources, but was not asked to examine the ban’s impact on the economy and jobs.
“We work in silos,” he said
Parry admitted that an approach that looks at all aspects of the alcohol ban is preferable.
“I would have assumed the national command control council would have an economics group looking at the financial implications,” he said.
Based on estimates
The alcohol industry is likely to try and pick apart the model, which is based on many assumptions, rather than actual hard data.