Kenya bans sale of alcohol as coronavirus infections surge

KENYA – The HoReCa industry in Kenya has been meet with a big blow following President Uhuru Kenyatta’s directive on banning the sale of alcohol in restaurants and eateries across the country for 30 days, as a measure to curb the spread of the Corona Virus.

In his speech, President Kenyatta stated, “There shall be no sale of alcoholic beverages or drinks in eateries and restaurants across the territory of the Republic of Kenya, effective midnight today (28th July 2020) for the next 30 days.”

He also amended the closing time for restaurants and eateries from 8p.m to 7p.m. “All bars shall remain closed until further notice,” he added.

In the new measures, President Kenyatta issued a stern warning directing the Inspector General of Police to cause withdrawal of all licences for bars operating in breach of the directive and those withdrawal will be permanent.

Individuals found drinking alcohol in bars and restaurants risk a Sh20,000 (US$185) fine, a jail term of six months or both.

The penalties for breach of the presidential directive are contained in the Public Health (Prevention, Control and Suppression of Covid-19) Rules 2020 that were introduced in March to enforce restrictions-imposed to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease, reports Business Daily.

Kenya had allowed restaurants to sell alcohol in April, opening a window for bars to reopen under the cover of selling food. But the President blames this move as a foremost agent in the spread of the disease.

“Contact tracing and the recent surge of infections indicate that our socialising without regard to protective behaviour particularly in environments serving alcohol has become one of the greatest risk factors in our communities,” he said.

The Pubs Entertainment and Restaurant Association of Kenya has opposed the ban with the Association’s Chairperson Alice Opee highlighting, “By end of June we had lost almost Sh15 billion (US$139.3m) and after reopening an average outlet invested from Sh200,0000 (US$ 1,850) to Sh500,000 (US$4,600), some of them have gone as far as spending Sh 1 million (US$9,200).”

With the new rules being put in place, sections in supermarkets where alcohol is stocked have been experiencing heavy traffic as many resort to getting “take-away” alcohol and consuming it at home.

To this end the National Authority for the Campaign Against Alcohol and Drug Abuse (Nacada) has issued warning to Kenyans against drinking at home.

“Nacada wishes to caution members of the public of a growing trend of alcohol consumption from home, which is exposing children and young people to underage drinking.

“Drinking at home also undermines the protective home environment for the pupils and students who are staying at home because of the containment measures imposed by the government to check the spread of COVID 19,” reads a statement from Nacada Chairperson, Prof Mabel Imbuga.

The agency also issued a toll-free number of 1192 for people to report incidents of alcohol abuse and those contravening the rules.

Globally, the sale of alcohol has been controlled in most countries, with governments and medics raising the fact that alcohol consumption lowers inhibitions, masks judgment and that intoxicated people are less likely to adhere to rules such as social distancing, sanitising and wearing masks to control the virus.

South Africa saw the return of the ban on alcohol sale for the second time this month as the government steps up efforts to reduce pressure on hospitals amid a rapid increase in coronavirus infections.

President Cyril Ramaphosa blamed the resumption of alcohol sales for burdening hospitals and clinics with related injuries, violence and trauma.

This comes even as the players in the industry such as Distell, Heineken SA, Diageo, Pernod Ricard and South African Breweries launched digital platforms where customers could purchase their drinks and schedule for the time of collection as they adhered with the protocol of physical distancing.

In Kenya, the ban will delay the commencing of the US$5m recovery programme by East African Breweries (EABL) aimed to help pubs and bars recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic when they resume operation.

The two-year programme dubbed “Raising the Bar” is part of the US$100 million (ksh10.6 billion) kitty announced by EABL’s parent company, Diageo that will be rolled out from July 2020 in different markets.

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