In Practice

Unnatural deaths, alcohol bans and curfews: Evidence from a quasi-natural experiment during COVID-19

T A Moultrie, R E Dorrington, R Laubscher, P Groenewald, C D H Parry, R Matzopoulos, D Bradshaw

Abstract


Background. Coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19) restrictions, particularly relating to the sale of alcohol and hours of curfew, have had a marked effect on the temporal pattern of unnatural deaths in South Africa. 

Methods. Death data were collected over 68 weeks from January 2020 to April 2021, together with information on the nature of restrictions (if any) on the sale of alcohol, and hours of curfew. Data were analysed using a simple ordinary least square (OLS) regression model to estimate the relative contribution of restrictions on the sale of alcohol and hours of curfew to the pattern of excess unnatural deaths. 

Results. The complete restriction on the sale of alcohol resulted in a statistically significant reduction in unnatural deaths regardless of the length of curfew. To the contrary, periods where no or limited restrictions on alcohol were in force had no significant effect, or resulted in significantly increased unnatural deaths. 

Conclusions. The present study highlights an association between alcohol availability and the number of unnatural deaths and demonstrates the extent to which those deaths might be averted by disrupting the alcohol supply. While this is not a long-term solution to addressing alcohol-related harm, it further raises the importance of implementing evidence-based alcohol control measures. 

 


Authors' affiliations

T A Moultrie, Centre for Actuarial Research, Faculty of Commerce, University of Cape Town, South Africa

R E Dorrington, Centre for Actuarial Research, Faculty of Commerce, University of Cape Town, South Africa

R Laubscher, Biostatistics Research Unit, South African Medical Research Council, Cape Town, South Africa

P Groenewald, Burden of Disease Research Unit, South African Medical Research Council, Cape Town, South Africa

C D H Parry, Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drug Research Unit, South African Medical Research Council, Cape Town, South Africa; Department of Psychiatry, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Tygerberg, Cape Town, South Africa

R Matzopoulos, Burden of Disease Research Unit, South African Medical Research Council, Cape Town, South Africa; School of Public Health and Family Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, South Africa

D Bradshaw, Burden of Disease Research Unit, South African Medical Research Council, Cape Town, South Africa; School of Public Health and Family Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, South Africa

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Keywords

Unnatural deaths; Injury deaths; Excess deaths; Alcohol restrictions; Curfew; South Africa

Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 2021;111(9):834-837. DOI:10.7196/SAMJ.2021.v111i9.15813

Article History

Date submitted: 2021-07-02
Date published: 2021-07-02

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