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South Africa bans liquor sales amid coronavirus surge

South Africa bans liquor sales amid coronavirus surge
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South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday announced a new swath of COVID-19 restrictions, including shutting down bars and reimposing a ban on liquor sales.

Medical experts are warning that the country’s health system is at risk of being overwhelmed due to rising coronavirus cases coupled with those needing urgent care due to alcohol-fueled incidents. A new, more infectious strain of coronavirus has recently been detected in South Africa that has caused many countries to limit or ban travel to and from the country.

According to a report from The Associated Press, South Africa saw a drop of as much as 60 percent in trauma cases at hospitals after a prior ban on liquor sales in April and May, a number that began to rise when the ban was lifted.

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Angelique Coetzee, chairwoman of the South African Medical Association, told the AP, “To alleviate the pressure on the system during this time of the year, where we only have skeleton staff working, especially in the public sector, as well as in the private sector, we are asking for stricter restrictions regarding social gatherings.”

The AP notes that South Africa’s alcohol industry was among the hardest hit and many alcohol traders had appealed to the government to try and avoid an outright ban on liquor sales.

Apart from banning liquor sales, the new restrictions included the closure of all beaches and public swimming pools in infectious hotspots as well as an extension on its curfew, the AP reports. Residents must now be home from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m.

Masks are now mandatory in public spaces, said Ramaphosa, with those caught violating the mandate subject to a fine or even a criminal charge that could lead to time in jail.

South Africa surpassed 1 million COVID-19 cases on Sunday and has so far confirmed over 26,000 deaths due to the virus.