Durban - KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala has warned that the government will not hesitate to reimpose the alcohol ban if people behave recklessly and a second more deadly wave of Covid-19 sweeps the country.
Zikalala made the remarks during a media briefing yesterday. On Saturday night, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the extension of the National State of Disaster to September 15 and the relaxation of lockdown regulations to alert level 2, under which the sale of alcohol and tobacco is now permitted.
The new regulations will become effective at midnight.
Zikalala said the province had experienced a decline in new infections, but urged citizens to remain vigilant.
“This transition to level 2 should not make us complacent to think that the risk posed by the virus is no more.
“This is a deadly virus, everyone must adhere to all requirements.
“As the province, we will still deal harshly with those who are violating the regulations,” Zikalala said.
He said KZN had bucked the trend and recently had a decline in the number of new cases reported daily since the beginning of August.
“We must emphasise though that, in terms of the overall numbers, it is evidently clear that KZN is at its peak in terms of the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.
He said that of the 873 new cases recorded on August 15, eThekwini District recorded 46%, followed by UMgungundlovu which recorded 11%.
He said the declining trend had been shown as follows:
EThekwini District recorded a median of 697 cases (range 331-1545 cases) daily, compared to 1383 daily a month ago.
uMgungundlovu District recorded a median of 181 cases (range 97-364 cases) daily, down from 690 daily a month ago.
King Cetshwayo District recorded a median of 195 cases (range 50-295 cases) daily, compared to 266 daily a month ago.
Amajuba District had recorded a median of 117 cases (range 49-207 cases) daily, compared to 248 daily a month ago.
Zikalala said the provincial economy had lost R30billion due to the economic lockdown and the move to level 2 was a “gateway” towards economic recovery.
“The opening up of the economy is, indeed, great news because it means more businesses will now have the opportunity to save more jobs and prevent the disaster that has befallen those who were forced to close down their operations.
“By the same token, we noted the joy and excitement that greeted the end of the ban on alcohol and cigarette sales.
“People on social media, have been wrongly interpreting the lifting on the ban of smoking and alcohol as an opportunity to go back to their old habits,” he said.
He said the government wanted to “plead” with people not to “abuse their access to alcohol” and to remind them that smoking was still bad for their health.
“We still need to ensure that our health-care facilities are protected, to prioritise saving the lives of those affected by Covid-19.
“We want to make it clear that the unbanning of alcohol sales is not an excuse for people to go back to drinking and driving, which results in innocent people being killed or injured.
“It does not give people the licence to get involved in fights where others will be assaulted, stabbed or shot.
“It is not an opportunity for them to get drunk, and then beat up women and children,” he said.
“We are cognisant of the threat of a new wave of Covid-19 infections coming back to overwhelm us.
“We have seen it in other countries, where people thought the virus had subsided and then they started behaving recklessly, making the virus come back stronger than before.
“If we allow that to happen, the government will not hesitate to reinstate the ban on alcohol, and bring back a lot of other restrictions.
“So, once again, whether or not alcohol remains available for sale is in your hands. If we see more infections, more accidents, shootings and stabbings, we will take away alcohol,” he said.