The liquor industry has praised President Cyril Ramaphosa for not banning alcohol sales as he took the country to adjusted Level 2 in response to surging Covid-19 cases that have put the country on the brink of a third wave.
The Ministerial Advisory Committee on Covid-19 had decided to introduce restrictions due to an average of 3745 daily new Covid-19 infections recorded over the last seven days.
This is an increase of 31% on the previous week and an increase of 66% on the week before that, Ramaphosa pointed out.
Tipple continues to flow
A ban on liquor sales has been common practice amid rising Covid-19 cases and subsequent tightening of regulations in South Africa.
South African Liquor Brandowners Association (SALBA) chairperson, Sibani Mngadi said that the previous banning of alcohol sales had a negative impact on the economy, threatened jobs and created a conducive environment for illegal liquor sales to flourish.
“We have noted the destructive economic effects of previous bans, which led to R36 billion loss in sales revenue for the industry and R29 billion in tax revenue loss for the government, putting at least 200 200 jobs at risk,” Mngadi said.
“In addition, the alcohol industry has documented the extraordinary growth in the illicit alcohol trade as a direct consequence of the alcohol bans – the illicit alcohol trade sales by volume have now overtaken the entire combined wine and cider sectors and have cost the fiscus around R11.3 billion.”
He believes that restrictions on the legal sale of alcohol were neither an effective nor a sustainable measure to reduce pressure on the public health system.
“We welcome the decision of the government to focus on restricting social gatherings and the new curfew hours. The decision to keep the alcohol trading environment open under the licenced conditions and limitations of the curfew is welcomed as taverns, bars and restaurants are a critical part of the tourism business which we need to assist to recover,” said Mngadi.
SALBA chief executive officer, Kurt Moore, said that the Covid-19 vaccination programme remained the ultimate solution to restrictions. “We are eager to see the government step up the vaccination programme. The industry has repeatedly said it is willing to provide whatever logistical assistance the government requires to achieve this huge operational undertaking,” Moore said.
Regulation changes for adjusted Level 2
Under adjusted Level 2, curfew hours will start from 11pm and end at 4am.
Non-essential establishments including restaurants, bars and fitness centres will close by 10pm.
Religious services, political rallies, social events, and non-essential establishments will be limited to 100 people indoors and 250 people outdoors.
Where the venue is too small to accommodate these numbers with appropriate social distancing, then no more than 50% of the capacity of the venue may be used, Ramaphosa said.
It is only a matter of time before the country enters a third wave of infections, Ramaphosa said, confirming that the Free State, Northern Cape, North West and Gauteng have already reached the threshold of a third wave of Covid-19 cases.
As of Sunday Gauteng has the highest number of active cases at 15 872 followed by Free State with 8131, Northern Cape with 8012 and the North West with 6528.
“The proportion of Covid-19 tests that are positive has more than doubled in the last month from around 4% to more than 11%, even as we have increased testing across the country. We are advised that a positivity rate of over 5% is a cause for concern,” Ramaphosa said.
The surge in new infections has been attributed to the increasing number of social gatherings where people were no longer adhering to health protocols.