Industry begs government to avoid alcohol restrictions in December

 ·24 Nov 2021

South Africa’s alcohol industry is pleading with the government to review all of its options before reintroducing damaging lockdown regulations over the December holiday period.

The National Liquor Traders’ Council told eNCA that it was prepared to work with the government on interventions to fight the pandemic, but warned that authorities need to follow the science before reintroducing restrictions.

The group said that it would be up to the people of South Africa to get vaccinated and ensure that there was no repeat of the 2020 holiday season, which saw significant restrictions imposed on gatherings, alcohol sales and freedom of movement due to a second Covid-19 wave of infections.

It added that it was specifically targeting men and encouraging them to vaccinate, as they are traditionally seen as decision-makers in households and communities.

Meanwhile, the South African wine industry (Vinpro) and Beer Association of South Africa (BASA) have also warned against further alcohol restrictions in the country.

“The liquor industry is already heavily regulated. We urge the government to stop these crisis-driven Covid-19 related prohibitions on wine which have promoted the development of parallel illicit markets, plunging our industry into a financial abyss and reducing much-needed government revenue,” Vinpro said.

BASA has written to Trade, Industry and Competition minister Ebrahim Patel requesting his urgent intervention at a Cabinet-level to ensure that “irrational alcohol bans are no longer imposed, especially over the festive season, which is a critical time for the local industry”.

Hospitality industry 

These concerns have been echoed by the country’s hospitality industry, which warned that businesses in the sector will not be able to cope with another festive season constrained by lockdowns.

Fedhasa, the national trade association for the hospitality industry, pointed to the government’s decision to extend the national state of disaster to 15 December 2021 as a point of concern ahead of the busy holiday period.

“As an industry, we are not insensitive to the fact that balancing lives and livelihoods is an impossible task and we understand that sacrifices have to be made. However, hotels and restaurants are not just a non-essential lifestyle activity which can be switched on and off to stem the spread of Covid,” said Rosemary Anderson, Fedhasa national chair.

Unlike many other sectors, the hospitality sector has largely borne the brunt of changing lockdown regulations, despite putting in place stringent health and hygiene protocols, she said.

“Thousands of livelihoods have already been lost and every day the operations of the hospitality sector and its extended supply chain are curtailed through regulations, more livelihoods hang in the balance,” said Anderson.

She said Fedhasa is calling on the government to make every effort to avoid imposing additional restrictions on the sector, particularly over the festive season break when many businesses will be trying to recover from the losses over the past 19 months.

Increase in cases 

The warnings from business come as South Africa reports an uptick in Covid-19 cases, raising concerns of a potential fourth wave of Covid-19 infections.

On Monday (22 November), the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) reported an increase in the 7-day moving average for new Covid-19 cases and the percentage testing positive in Gauteng, particularly in Tshwane amongst 10 – 29-year-olds over the past week.

Additionally, the NICD has recently identified a cluster among the 20 – 44 age group at an institute of higher education in Tshwane.

“We are monitoring these trends to see if these increases persist. Localised increases in case numbers (clusters) are not unexpected. However, it is hard to say whether the increases indicate the start of a widespread resurgence,” said NICD acting executive director Professor Adrian Puren.

On Tuesday (23 November), South Africa reported 868 new cases of Covid-19, taking the total reported to 2,948,760. Deaths have reached 89,635 (+51), while recoveries have climbed to 2,838,524, leaving the country with a balance of 20,601 active cases. The total number of vaccines administered is 24,874,528 (+120,212).

Read: 25 in-demand jobs in South Africa – and the skills companies are looking for heading into 2022

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