South Africa: Hard Lockdown Provides Opportunity to Question Our Unhealthy Relationship With Alcohol


Alcohol is threaded through the story of human beings. Hard lockdown, though, has brought with it hard introspection about South Africans' relationship with booze.

"Sometimes you cut open a body and you can smell the alcohol coming from the stomach - it reeks," says Dr Gina Rowe.

Rowe is a pathologist at the Roodepoort mortuary, along the western fringe of Joburg. It's her job to determine cause of death. Among the procedures on her checklist is the requirement to perform blood alcohol tests on every adult body she examines - every single one.

"We test everybody because there's just such a high prevalence of alcohol in cause of death," she says.

Rowe doesn't drink herself, but she is more sad than judgmental, she says, when alcohol toxicity reflects in the notes she makes before handing over a body for cremation or burial.

"It is a waste of life, but when I think about why people drink so much, I know it's because there is rot in society, and alcohol as our most abused drug is a plaster for problems for many people."

Rowe says lockdown levels 4 and 5, with their ban on alcohol sales, saw a dramatic drop in...

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