Kenya bans on-trade alcohol sales, South Africa bans all alcohol sales again

The Kenyan government has banned the sale of alcohol in the HoReCa sector for 30 days as part of measures to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. The penalty for bars and restaurants found serving alcohol will be Sh20,000 ($185). Meanwhile, South Africa has instituted a total ban on alcohol sales again.

In addition, bars have been ordered to close. Restaurants must close by 7pm in the evening. Alcohol can still be sold in stores. Kenya is the sixth country in Africa to bring in controls on the sale of alcohol as a result of COVID-19 – there have also been bans in South Africa, Lesotho, Namibia, Swaziland and Botswana. Supermarkets and retail stores can still sell alcohol. The law also means that alcohol cannot be consumed in public, which includes the HoReCa sector, in store, or in parking lots.

In April, Naivas, the leading supermarket chain, actually began selling alcohol for the first time to account for consumers who stopped drinking in bars and restaurants and wanted to drink at home. Rival Tuskys still does not sell alcohol. Other retailers reported that sales of alcohol increased five fold during earlier lockdowns.

South Africa banned alcohol sales in late March across all channels. That ban was imposed as part of a lockdown to allow the health system to cope with COVID-19 patients. South Africa’s excess death rate actually fell during the alcohol ban in April and May, even when COVID-19 deaths were included. In April, South African Medical Research Council data found that weekly deaths from unnatural causes fell to 400, a record low. That data includes road accidents and murders, the two leading unnatural causes of death. By comparison, the weekly number of deaths from unnatural causes in January was 1,200.

The sale of alcohol was lifted in June, leading to a surge in trauma admissions in South African hospitals.

South Africa has now banned sales of alcohol again, meaning further financial distress for 25,000 liquor stores and 65,000 bars and restaurants that sell alcohol. For supermarkets, the effect is also severe: Massmart says it lost approximately R2.3bn ($139.5m) in alcohol sales during the alcohol ban in April and May.