Come Friday, cigarettes will still not be allowed to be sold at level four of lockdown.
The u-turn comes after government received over 2 000 submissions from the public opposing the sale of tobacco products, Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said.
The minister was speaking at a briefing on Wednesday evening on the new regulations for industries which will restart their operations as the country gradually starts resuming economic activity.
Last week President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that the restrictions on economic activity would be lifted in a gradual risk-adjusted process, based on five coronavirus levels. The country is currently at level five which only allows essential services to operate. More businesses however will be able to operate from Friday, when we move to level four.
Initially government had proposed that the sale of cigarettes would be allowed at level four, but government had received submissions from the public opposing it on the grounds that it posed a health risk, Dlamini-Zuma said. "Besides the effects of tobacco on lungs and the way tobacco is shared, it does not allow for social distancing and encourages the spread of the virus."
The minister specifically raised an example made in one submission, where concerns were raised about spreading the virus in saliva, when one has to lick paper when rolling a "zol".
Previously British American Tobacco South Africa warned that the ban on tobacco products would unintentionally lead to the rise in illicit trade in tobacco.
The sale of alcohol and liquor will also not be allowed. This ban also applies to those who make their own liquor and distribute it or sell it. Only liquor – mainly wine – is allowed to be manufactured for exports, according to the new regulations.
Freeing up hospitals
Dlamini-Zuma said the alcohol ban was freeing up the emergency rooms of hospitals, allowing doctors to tend to those who are sick, and it has helped avoid emergencies brought on by the effects of alcohol. "Our ICUs are not filled with people who are stabbed, or shot," she said.
"The non-sale of alcohol is assisting the fight against Covid-19," Dlamini-Zuma added. People are now avoiding crowds or socialising with others.