Nelson Mandela Bay acting mayor Thsonono Buyeye says that national and provincial health authorities are considering a number of restrictions to fight the coronavirus case surge in the region, including limitations on how and where alcohol may be sold.
Buyeye told Cape Talk that officials had presented a number of proposed restrictions to Health minister Zweli Mkhize, including:
- The introduction of an earlier curfew time. South Africa currently has a national curfew in place between 00h00 and 04h00;
- Further restrictions on public gatherings;
- The temporary suspension of sit-down alcohol sales for taverns.
Buyeye did not clarify whether alcohol sales would be impacted at restaurants or liquor stores.
Speaking on the restrictions around liquor sales, Buyeye said that the city’s tavern owners have submitted a proposal themselves to allow for ‘takeaway alcohol sales’ in an effort to curb coronavirus spread through on-site consumption.
“It is about time that (tavern) owners start doing things differently by making sure that people don’t come and drink at their premises,” he said.
He added that these decisions still need to be confirmed by the government’s National Coronavirus Command Council, with a decision set to be announced later this week.
“We have taken the proposal up with the minister (Mkhize). We just need to make sure that we can enforce it as it is difficult to enforce something that is not part of the regulations.”
The coronavirus infection rate has continued to rise in the Eastern Cape over the last four weeks, specifically in the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro. On Sunday, 1,400 additional positive cases and 26 deaths were recorded in the province.
Sale of alcohol was heavily restricted during South Africa’s coronavirus lockdown – including two bans. The restrictions were seen as mitigating the harmful impact of liquor abuse, necessary in freeing up needed hospital beds, and reducing large gatherings and social events.
While most of the heavy-handed restrictions have since been lifted, certain limits remain in place.
Initially, sales were restricted to weekdays only – with sales banned over weekends and on public holidays – but president Cyril Ramaphosa announced earlier in November that normal alcohol sales at all venues may continue within curfew hours.
Any person who does not follow the regulations is liable to be fined or faces imprisonment for a period not exceeding six months.