Liquor traders implore government not to impose total booze ban

Liquor traders have appealed for limited alcohol restrictions, should they be imposed, as Covid-19 cases surge. Stock photo.
Image: 123RF/Somchai Jongmeesuk

SA liquor traders appealed to the government on Sunday not to impose a total ban on alcohol sales in response to an exponential rise in Covid-19 infections.

Fresh restrictions could be imposed after the national coronavirus command council meets to discuss the Covid-19 resurgence which has seen infections near the one million mark.

The Sunday Times reported that President Cyril Ramaphosa would recall ministers and officials to discuss a response to the second wave of infections which had left private and public hospitals running out of intensive care beds and oxygen in four provinces.

The Liquor Traders Formations called on the government, in a statement on Sunday, to work with the alcohol industry to “find solutions of mutual benefit on how to fight the Covid-19 pandemic in a manner that can safeguard the one million livelihoods that are dependent on the alcohol industry.

“We are made to believe that the NCCC [national coronavirus command council] is sitting on Sunday … to consider various topical points as it pertains to gatherings, interprovincial travel, curfew, alcohol sales and international travel,” said the formations’ convener Lucky Ntimane.

“We do not think that a total ban on alcohol sales will be a solution either in the short or long term in arresting the resurgence and uptick in the number of positive cases for Covid-19.”

They put forward two options for consideration:

  • A measured curfew to restrict unnecessary movement of people while balancing the interests of the tourism sector which was dependent on the availability of alcohol
  • Alcohol restrictions if any, should provide for off-premises sales to allow for consumption at home and provide a special dispensation for taverns to operate as off-premises outlets with restricted hours.

Experts have warned during the course of the pandemic that alcohol-related trauma cases, such as stabbings and car crashes, place an additional burden on health-care workers and facilities when Covid-19 admissions increase in hospitals.

Trauma cases at Eastern Cape hospitals escalated sharply between Christmas eve and Day of Goodwill, DispatchLIVE reported. At Nelson Mandela Academic Hospital, for example, there were 18 cases on December 24. But on Christmas Day there were 40 cases at the hospital — 30 of which were stabbings.

Ntimane said, “As liquor traders we have observed with disappointment the lack of adherence to the control measures by some who have conducted themselves in a manner not befitting of patriotic South Africans. They have failed to heed a call by the president to behave in a manner that helps the country fight the second wave of the pandemic.

“We continue to call on our liquor traders and the public at large to observe the Covid-19 regulations as it relates to the wearing of face masks at all times, sanitising and washing our hands regularly, and observing social distancing.

“We understand the situation that the country finds itself in, and are alive to the fact that the president and his government have tough decisions to make in the coming days and as citizens of the country we will support government initiatives to tackle Covid-19,” read the statement.

“It is however our belief that any decision that affects our industry should be discussed with us beforehand and our inputs considered before any decision is communicated to the general public.”


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