Picture: Thobile Mathonsi/African News Agency(ANA)
Picture: Thobile Mathonsi/African News Agency(ANA)

Alcohol sector not out of the Covid-19 woods yet

By Siphelele Dludla Time of article published Sep 14, 2021

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THE ALCOHOL industry has expressed fears of another ban on the sale of liquor during the upcoming busy festive season if the fourth wave of Covid-19 pandemic comes to pass.

This means that the expected economic recovery could be dealt a blow as businesses in the alcohol-related industry have experienced 161 days of shutdowns since March 2020, putting just more than 240 000 jobs at risk.

The Beer Association of South Africa (Basa) yesterday welcomed with caution the further easing of Covid-19 lockdown restrictions as a welcome relief for the industry.

Basa, in a statement, said the relaxation of the curfew and extension of days for alcohol sales would provide some reprieve to those businesses that have survived four alcohol bans.

“However, with a Covid-19 fourth wave expected to hit at the beginning of December, any recovery seen in the sector will be eradicated should another ban be enforced by the government over the festive season,” it said.

“With this period also being the busiest time for liquor outlets and establishments, another alcohol ban will no doubt be the final nail in the coffin for thousands of businesses and the jobs they support.”

Basa said it would continue to call for proper consultation by the government before considering any new regulations to stop the spread of Covid-19 over the coming months.

On Sunday, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the move to adjusted level 2.

The measures will see a new curfew of 11pm to 4am; on-consumption alcohol sales being allowed 7 days a week until 10pm, and off-consumption sales from Monday to Friday between 10am and 6pm.

Ramaphosa said these measures would be reviewed in two weeks depending on the state of the pandemic.

Further information on an approach to “vaccine passports”, which can be used as evidence of vaccination for various purposes and events, would also be provided in a fortnight.

North West University Business School economist Prof Raymond Parsons said the economy’s recuperative powers would be strengthened by continuing to steadily open up activity.

“The highly positive growth expectations for the year as a whole are then more likely to be met,” Parsons said.

“While there are clearly still uncertainties around the future trajectory of the virus, South Africa must now as far as possible promote short-term economic and business activity.”

Meanwhile, the SA Liquor Brandowners Association (Salba) remained concerned about the continued prohibition of off-consumption sales on weekends.

Salba chairperson Sibani Mngadi said the restriction had only encouraged the illicit alcohol industry and further damaged the legitimate enterprises struggling under the weight of these irrational measures.

“We have approached the Ministerial Advisory Council and government representatives at Nedlac. None of them has been able to provide any justification for this or some scientific evidence to support the decision,” Mngadi said.

“The recent unemployment figures released by StatsSA that South Africa has 15 million unemployed people cannot be ignored. It is an accumulation of unfortunate decisions to shut down economic activities over that past year, including four total bans of alcohol sales.”

BUSINESS REPORT

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