Lockdown: Western Cape wants alcohol ban lifted urgently

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Western Cape Premier Alan Winde.
Western Cape Premier Alan Winde.
Malherbe Nienaber/Netwerk24
  • The Western Cape government wants the Covid-19 alcohol ban lifted urgently to prevent a jobs "bloodbath" in the wine and hospitality industry.
  • The province feels because it has hospital beds to spare since the coronavirus peak has passed, it can do so with safety precautions in place. 
  • If the ban continues, almost 200 000 jobs could be lost in these industries, and a pandemic of unemployment and starvation will rise, it says. 

The Western Cape government wants the alcohol sales and wine producing sector reopened urgently to prevent a jobs bloodbath.

It believed that although the pandemic was not gone, the peak had passed in the province, and with safety precautions followed, alcohol sales could resume safely. 

Earlier Premier Alan Winde announced that as of 13:00 on 7 August, the Western Cape had 8 631 active cases of Covid-19, with a total of 97 506 confirmed cases and  85 528 recoveries.

It recorded another 34 deaths, bringing the total to 3 347 people.

READ | Alcohol ban: Liquor traders 'losing an estimated R300m a day'

"We fully agree that alcohol related harms are a major problem in our province and country," a statement said on Friday at the conclusion of a meeting of top officials in the provincial government. 

"Our provincial data points to this. When the domestic sale of alcohol was suspended during the lockdown, and then again recently, the number of trauma cases dropped immediately.  

Isolation

"But we cannot view this in isolation of the other consequences of a continued 'ban' on the sale of alcohol is causing." 

The provincial government said:

- Wine industry body Vinpro estimated that the initial nine-week ban on local sales, and five-week ban on exports would result in 18 000 jobs lost, and 80 wineries and 350 grape producers closing their businesses over the next year;

- Stats SA food and beverage data for April and May showed a decline in revenue for this sector of 94% and 87% respectively from 2019 revenues;

- Wine is the third biggest export product of the Western Cape economy and contributes 6.5% of the value of exports from the province;

- Only 51% (2018) of the crop was exported, making the sector reliant on the domestic market to survive;

- Of the 2 873 producers of wine grapes in South Africa, 40% produced less than 100 tons, and a further 36% less than 500 tons a year, which meant the wine industry was dominated by smaller businesses;

- The hospitality sector relied on alcohol sales to makes ends meet, and the tourism sector supported over 200 000 jobs.

According to the provincial government, beds were available should the need arise. 

The pandemic was believed to have passed its peak, with metro hospitals 69% full, down from 71% the week before (all patients). 

In addition, at the field hospitals: the Hospital of Hope at the Cape Town International Convention Centre, with 800 beds, had 91 patients admitted; the Brackengate Field Hospital, with a capacity of over 330 beds, had 47 patients admitted; and, the Thusong Centre, with a capacity of 60 beds, had 20 patients admitted.

Peaks

Earlier on Friday, Winde paid tribute to partners Doctors Without Borders as they moved from The Thusong Centre to help other provinces cope with their peaks. 

"In fact, the Western Cape government has now reached a point where we have to carefully consider whether all our field hospitals need to stay open, given these statistics and the scenario provisioning projections.

"We therefore have a complex situation to address in our province, where the continued suspension on the sale of alcohol will result in a jobs bloodbath - mainly in our poorer, rural communities. We cannot ignore this." 

The sector would have to abide by the "new normal", and an alcohol harms task team would monitor the situation. 

"For as long as the Western Cape can assure access to health facilities for all Covid-19 patients, all businesses should be allowed to open safely, following clear health guidelines designed to slow the spread of Covid-19," the province urged. 

This would be discussed with national government, Winde said.
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