Ramaphosa says NO to lifting alcohol ban during Covid-19 lockdown
Johannesburg - President Cyril Ramaphosa is adamant that the ban on the sale of alcohol will remain in place during the Covid-19 lockdown period.
Ramaphosa made the announcement on Friday after the Gauteng Liquor Forum - which represents over 20 000 tavern owners in the province - served the government with a letter of demand calling for the ban on the sale of alcohol to be lifted.
South Africa is currently on Day 22 of a Covid-19 lockdown which is expected to end at the end of April. However, Ramaphosa could still yet extend the lockdown beyond April if he deems it fit to do so.
The country currently has more than 2 700 confirmed coronavirus cases and 50 virus related deaths.
The rate of infection has begun to climb at a heightened rate since the president announced a two week extension to the initial 21-day lockdown.
Since Sunday, cases have risen daily by 145, 99, 143, 91, 99 and 178 on Friday.
Medical expert Professor Karim warned that if South Africa’s average daily infections rose by 90 cases, the government would likely be forced to extend the lockdown.
Ramaphosa’s spokesperson, Khusela Diko, said the forum had been notified of the government’s decision to decline their request earlier on Friday.
“The president and government as a whole remain committed to financially supporting businesses in distress during this period. The president has carefully considered the representations made by the Gauteng Liquor Forum.
“These however have had to be weighed up against the imperative of all South African businesses and citizens to comply with the lockdown regulations, the health implications of consumption of alcohol and the priority to ensure social distancing during this principle.
“As such, alcohol is not considered an essential good or item. It is in fact considered a hindrance to the fight against the coronavirus,” said Diko.
Diko said Ramaphosa also took into consideration representations that had been made about the heightened risk being intoxicated with alcohol led to risky behaviour.
These also included evidence that alcohol led to an increase in violent crimes and car accidents, which the Presidency said could not be afforded, as all medical emergencies in the private and public sector had to be focused on the treatment of Covid-19 patients.
Diko said members of the forum were urged to seek financial assistance from the Tourism Relief Fund, the Department of Small Business Development, the Unemployment Insurance Fund and private endeavours such as the South African Future Trust amongst others.
“ These funds and institutions provide capped grant assistance to small, micro and medium enterprises, to ensure sustainability during this period, as well as support to employees of these enterprises.
“It is common cause that the containment of the coronavirus has resulted in financial strain for many businesses across all sectors, and not just those in the liquor industry,” said Diko.IOL