JOHANNESBURG, April 4, 2020 (Xinhua) -- A policeman inspects a construction site as some violators sit on the ground in Johannesburg, South Africa, April 3, 2020. A consistently high number of people have been arrested for violating lockdown regulations over COVID-19 in South Africa, Police Minister Bheki Cele said on Friday. (Photo by Yeshiel/Xinhua)
JOHANNESBURG, April 4, 2020 (Xinhua) -- A policeman inspects a construction site as some violators sit on the ground in Johannesburg, South Africa, April 3, 2020. A consistently high number of people have been arrested for violating lockdown regulations over COVID-19 in South Africa, Police Minister Bheki Cele said on Friday. (Photo by Yeshiel/Xinhua)

The South African government on Monday lamented alcohol abuse which it said dampens efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19.

“Tragically, the positive progress that the country has been making towards containing the spread of COVID-19 is being dampened by report of alcohol abuse, recklessness and terrible vehicle crashes and fatalities on our roads,” government spokesperson Phumla Williams said.

South Africa lifted the ban on alcohol sale on August 18 with the easing of restrictions following the tapering off of COVID-19 infections. However, the move has led to alcohol abuse which is blamed for the recent spate of fatal accidents.

Three police officers in Pretoria are among the people who died in alcohol-related traffic accidents that occurred this past weekend, according to Williams.

As verified by the police, 740 suspects, including two police officers, have been arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol.

Health workers in hospitals have to deal with high numbers of cases at the trauma units as a result of alcohol abuse, Williams said.

While many South Africans are responsible in their use of alcohol, the government and society cannot sit idle when lives are being destroyed as a result of alcohol abuse and binge drinking, Williams said.

Some South Africans do not abide by the current alert level two regulations which place restrictions on gathering, Williams said.

She urged law enforcement authorities to play their role in bringing the culprits to book.

“Although the government is committed to address societal issues such as alcohol abuse and the carnage on our roads, ultimately, these issues are everybody’s responsibility,” the spokesperson said.

The liquor industry should also strengthen current efforts with the government that aim to curb the scourge of alcohol abuse, she said.

Williams welcomed the recent call by Police Minister Bheki Cele for police to be tough on alcohol consumption and driving under the influence of alcohol.

In South Africa, alcohol abuse is seen as a major contributor to contact crimes such as murder, attempted murder, sexual offences, assault resulting in grievous bodily harm, common assault, and robbery.

It is estimated that around 70 percent of domestic violence is associated with alcohol abuse in the country. Enditem

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