Time to lift booze ban, liquor industry pleads as Covid-19 cases decline

Liquor retailers and the hospitality industry are calling for alcohol sales to resume.
Image: 123rf/ Oleg Evseev

This is an opportune time for the government to roll back the prohibition on alcohol sales to limit further losses of jobs and revenue, the liquor sector says.

The SA Liquor Brand owners Association (Salba) cited the National Institute for Communicable Diseases’ (NICD’s) Daily Hospital Surveillance Report, showing the number of active Covid-19 cases across the country has dropped over the past two weeks, in some cases by more than 50%.

The recent report states “all provinces reported a decrease in weekly incidence risk” ranging from a 22.9% decrease in the Free State to 47.3% decrease in KwaZulu-Natal and up to 50% in the Western Cape, said the association.

In Gauteng, the drop in the number of daily hospitalisations was from 3,838 to 1,190 (69% decrease). In KwaZulu-Natal, the drop in the number of daily hospitalisations was from 2,505 to 852 (66% decrease) and in the Eastern Cape from 968 to 326 (66% decrease).

Sibani Mngadi, chairperson of Salba, said the drop in infections was good news for the country and provided government with an opportunity to urgently reverse its decision to prohibit alcohol sales.

“Available data does not back government’s argument that the current prohibition of sale of alcohol is being maintained to preserve the maximum capacity in the health system to handle a surge in Covid-19 admissions,” said Mngadi.

There was a glaring need to limit further losses of jobs and revenue for the sector.

“With the first two bans, alcohol excise tax contribution to government declined by more than 28% from R47bn in 2019/20 to R34bn in 2020/21.

“This R13bn loss in alcohol tax revenue could have easily compensated for the investment needed in procurement of vaccines and other measures needed to curb the impact of Covid-19 on our society,” added Mngadi.

The industry said it has always sought ways to collaborate with the government to re-examine the reasons for banning alcohol and applying more effective alternative measures that address the issues of alcohol misuse while saving jobs.

Mngadi reiterated that the alcohol industry continues to seek a social compact with the government, industry and civil society to continue the sector’s vital economic activity, save businesses and jobs while ensuring its workers’ safety, and promote responsible trading and the sensible consumption of alcohol.

 

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