Liquor traders call for state collaboration on Covid-19 safety, as third wave gains a foothold

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South Africa's liquor traders are calling for the state's collaboration with the industry and civil society on liquor bans
South Africa's liquor traders are calling for the state's collaboration with the industry and civil society on liquor bans
Jacques Stander

The National Liquor Traders (NLT) has urged government not to impose "top-down restrictions" on the sale of alcohol, as South Africa enters the third wave of Covid-19 infections. 

A fresh ban, if imposed, would be the fourth the industry has faced since South Africa's lockdown began in 2020. The state's rationale for the bans is that hospital beds need to be kept available for Covid-19 patients and free of alcohol related trauma cases, like car accidents and violence. As of Saturday, South Africa had more than 79 000 active Covid-19 cases.

However, the alcohol industry has bemoaned the bans, saying producers and retailers were taking financial strain, running into billions, while also questioning the efficacy of the bans.

On Sunday, in a statement, NLT convenor Lucky Ntimane, said government should work with business and civil society in ensuring Covid-19 compliance, rather than imposing restrictions on liquor trade.

"Instead of talking down to people the way the government has been doing, we need to mobilise the whole of society to defeat this virus," Ntimane said. 

Communicating and empowering people to make the right decisions, is more effective than policing their behaviour, he said, using South Africa's fight against HIV and Aids as an example. He said the model could work, if the government collaborated with the industry and civil society.

Ntimane also urged South Africans to comply with Covid-19 safety measures. He explained that the industry was playing its part in raising Covid-19 safety awareness, through focus groups and training for liquor traders.

The industry had also donated 40 000 personal protective equipment packs and educational tools at taverns, through anti-alcohol harm organisation, Aware.org. Some of the packs were donated to 25 hospitals, as part of the industry's R145 million Covid-19 response investment.

The organisation also provided food parcels to 20 000 taverns.

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