The data shows that it is time to lift lockdown restrictions in South Africa: business group

The South African Liquor Brandowners Association (SALBA) says the most recent data on South Africa’s Covid-19 hospitalisations point to a steady decline – and that this is another reason for the government to consider easing lockdown restrictions – specifically, lifting the country’s prohibition on the sale of alcohol.

According to the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD)’s Daily Hospital Surveillance Report, the number of active Covid-19 cases across the country has dropped over the last two weeks, in some cases by more than 50%.

The recent report shows that all provinces reported a decrease in weekly incidence risk, ranging from a 22.9% decrease in the Free State to 47.3% decrease in KwaZulu-Natal and up to 50% in the Western Cape.

Sibani Mngadi, chairperson of SALBA, said the drop in infections was good news for the country and provides Government with an opportunity to urgently reverse its decision to prohibit alcohol sales.

“Available data does not back government’s argument that the current prohibition of sale of alcohol is being maintained to preserve the maximum capacity in the health system to handle a surge in Covid-19 admissions,” said Mngadi.

Mngadi added that it was now time for the government to roll back the prohibition to limit further losses of jobs and revenue for the sector.

“With the first two bans, alcohol excise tax contribution to government declined by more than 28% from R47 billion in 2019/20 to R34 billion in 2020/21.

“This R13 billion loss in alcohol tax revenue could have easily compensated for the investment needed in procurement of vaccines and other measures needed to curb the impact of Covid-19 on our society,” said Mngadi.

Other restrictions should also be eased

In a digital press conference this week, Western Cape premier Alan Winde said that the province has continued to see a decline in the major Covid-19 indicators in the province- including hospitalisations, deaths, the virus reproductive number, test positivity rate, active infections, health worker infections and oxygen use in our facilities.

“All of these are clear and consistent signs that we have passed the peak of our second wave. Our healthcare teams remain on high alert and our health teams and health care workers continue to work hard to manage the pandemic, and to save lives,” he said.

In light of these sustained declines, Winde said that he wrote to president Cyril Ramaphosa this week to relax some of the restrictions in place in the Western Cape in order to protect thousands of jobs in our tourism, hospitality and agricultural industries.

He said that the Western Cape has requested that some of the restrictions around the sale alcohol, the curfew and the opening of beaches are relaxed.

“We must ensure that we protect those agri-workers, drivers, waiters, hotel staff, tour guides retail staff and their families who rely on their jobs in these industries to feed themselves and their families.

“We have done this because we believe that we must maintain the balance between saving lives and saving livelihoods.”

Deaths have likely peaked

Meanwhile, the number of people dying from Covid-19 during a resurgence of the disease may have peaked, Bloomberg reported on Thursday, citing a report on excess deaths published by the South African Medical Research Council.

The number of excess deaths, a measure of mortality over what would normally be expected from natural causes, fell to 13,374 in the week ending Jan. 23 from a crest of 15,486 the week earlier, the SAMRC said in a statement on Thursday.

The SAMRC said 125,744 excess deaths have been recorded since May 3 in South Africa. That compares with an official death toll of 42,550 – the highest in Africa.

Read: Thousands of restaurants face closure in South Africa – franchise body

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The data shows that it is time to lift lockdown restrictions in South Africa: business group