Command Council meeting to decide on lockdown restrictions
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JOHANNESBURG - THE NATIONAL Coronavirus Command Council is set to meet today to decide on whether to impose further lockdown restrictions to curb the spread of Covid-19 from the Easter weekend travel.
Speculation has increased that the government could add further restrictions that could include the ban or limit alcohol sales during the period as well as a review of the number of people attending gatherings, particularly religious ones.
The reports come as business continue to express growing concerns on what the stricter regulations would mean for their operations and the economy.
Yesterday, President Cyril Ramaphosa said in his newsletter that a number of religious organisations had asked for the easing of existing restrictions on the size of congregations.
Ramaphosa said the government has had constructive engagements with the faith community.
He said religious leaders appreciated the very real danger of a new wave of Covid-19 infections.
“Since the outbreak of the pandemic, religious organisations have taken proactive and positive measures to limit the spread of the disease among worshippers,” Ramaphosa said.
“Large gatherings, whether religious or otherwise, have the potential to spread the virus, despite the application of measures around social distancing and sanitising.”
The risk of a further wave of Covid19 infections is higher in South Africa because of the slow pace at which a full-scale vaccine roll-out is taking place. The South African alcohol industry said it was formally seeking reasons for this intended decision to ban alcohol sales for the fourth time since March 2020.
It said such a move would hasten the onset of the third wave of Covid-19 while collapsing the economy.
SA Liquor Brandowners Association chairperson Sibani Mngadi said there was no scientific rationale behind it.
Mngadi said the industry proposal to the government was to reduce the size of gatherings, but keep most business sectors open to support economic recovery.
“If the reports are true, the government will be going directly against proposals by yet again shutting down the alcohol sector and impacting on its
R173 billion contribution to the GDP of the country,” Mngadi said.
The ban on alcohol sales has had damaging financial implications for the country’s struggling economy, with an estimated tax revenue loss amounting to R36 bn and 200 000 jobs lost.
Before resigning as co-chairperson of the government’s ministerial advisory committee on Covid-19, Professor Salim Abdool Karim argued last week that, in his view, to postpone a third wave, the government should tighten some restrictions.
He said that planned indoor gatherings should be restricted to 50 people, that a stricter curfew should be re-imposed, and that liquor sales should only be permitted from Monday to Thursday.
SAB vice-president of corporate affairs, Zoleka Lisa, said the government should apply rationality and reason to impending Easter restrictions. “Unjust and reactive regulations will do more harm than good,” Lisa said.
Alexander Forbes chief economist Isaah Mhlanga said increasing infections would remain a threat so long herd immunity was not adequately and promptly achieved.
“However, the ongoing vaccination drives bode well for global growth prospects and overall confidence as more economic activity resumes.”