The Medical Research Council said that a national strategy on alcohol was needed, including stricter controls on its sale and advertising.
Members of the council were among the group of experts who advised the government ahead of its decision to reimpose the ban on the sale and transport of all liquor, except for export purposes.
Briefing Parliament’s portfolio committee on Health on Wednesday, the MRC’s Dr Charles Parry told lawmakers that its recommendations included raising the drinking age, limiting advertising to the point of sale and a range of other measures, including higher prices and taxes.
Modeling by the Medical Research Council suggests the ban on alcohol could free up more than 17,000 beds in general wards and nearly 13,000 intensive care unit beds for COVID-19 patients, at a saving of around R1.3 billion.
Briefing MPs on the impact of alcohol-related trauma on the public health service, the MRC’s Dr Parry said that planning should start now for tighter restrictions on the sale and advertising of liquor for when the ban was lifted.
“I’m not sure we can push the whole thing back into a bottle and go back to prohibition, I think we need to look at having a more responsible, better-regulated system. I think we can do a lot without prohibiting alcohol, but controlling it better. It needs to be far better regulated, not prohibited.”
Parry said that a starting point for the government would be dealing with stalled legislation that provided for tighter controls over alcohol.