Liquor stores can now stay open until after midnight. Picture: Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg
Liquor stores can now stay open until after midnight. Picture: Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg

Liquor store owners can breathe a sigh of relief after government relaxes curfew

By Xolile Mtembu, Reuters Time of article published Dec 31, 2021

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ALCOHOL establishments can breathe a sigh of relief after Thursday’s Cabinet announcement that the government would be lifting the midnight curfew to 4am with immediate effect and allowing liquor shops to operate until 11pm, while reverting to full licence conditions.

On December 14, the South African Liquor Brandowners Association (SALBA) had written to the National Coronavirus Command Council expressing concerns over the rise in Covid-19 infections, and called on the government to apply a science-based approach and not rush to the “knee-jerk” response of the past restrictions.

SALBA spokesperson Sibani Mngadi said: “There is no scientific basis for an implementation of bans or restrictions on the sale of alcohol, which was claimed to be intended to increase hospital capacity.

“The size of gatherings that were increased fourfold, without any scientific explanation in the run-up to November local government elections is what needs to be managed. Alcohol establishments are making all the effort to comply with the regulations.”

The country made the changes based on the trajectory of the pandemic, levels of vaccination in the country, and available capacity in the health sector, according to a media release issued by Mondli Gungubele, Minister in the Presidency.

South Africa is currently at the lowest of its five-stage Covid-19 alert levels. "All indicators suggest the country may have passed the peak of the fourth wave at national level,“ a statement from the special Cabinet meeting, held earlier on Thursday, said.

Data from the Department of Health showed a 29.7 percent decrease in the number of new cases detected in the week ending December 25, compared to the number of cases found in the previous week, at 127 753, the government said. South Africa, with close to 3.5 million infections and 91 000 deaths, has been the worst-hit country in Africa during the pandemic on both counts.

Besides lifting restrictions on public movement, the government said gatherings would be restricted to no more than 1 000 people indoors, and no more than 2 000 people outdoors.

“While the Omicron variant is highly transmissible, there have been lower rates of hospitalisation than in previous waves,” the Cabinet said, adding that the wearing of masks in public places remained mandatory.

Failure to wear a mask in South Africa when required remains a criminal offence.

BUSINESS REPORT ONLINE

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