Ramaphosa on South Africa’s cigarette ban, alcohol sales, and a move to lockdown level 2

South Africa’s level 3 regulations are appropriate for ‘right now’ and the country is already targeting a move to level 2 of the lockdown with fewer restrictions, says president Cyril Ramaphosa.

In an interview with the SABC on Thursday (28 May), the president said that once the country moves to level 3 lockdown on 1 June 2020, the next move is to look forward to level 2.

However, he said that the country must first ‘bed down’ level 3.

“All of our focus must be on level 3 and all of our focus will be on the country’s (coronavirus) hotspots to ensure that these areas comply with the restrictions as they are.

“This includes (compliance) with the additional health protocols that we will impose on those hotspots. Once all of that is working, we will then be ready to move to level 2,” he said.

The whole of South Africa will be moving to lockdown level 3 in June, but under government’s risk-based assessment of districts there is no guarantee that all hotspot areas – existing or emerging – will stay there, or be able to move on to lower levels.

According to Ramaphosa, these areas will face government interventions which may come with added restrictions, even at level 3. If these interventions fail to stop the spread of the virus in those areas, they may be moved up to lockdown level 4 or even level 5.

The opposite is also true, however, with districts that show little or no spread of the virus being able to move to lower levels.

Assessments of districts will take place at two week intervals.

Tobacco will be sold again

Ramaphosa emphasised that the country will not remain at level 3 restrictions on a permanent basis – noting that government will also relax the restrictions around the sale of tobacco.

“We are going to migrate to another level. Those who are hankering for tobacco must know that it is only a matter of time before their hankering is assuaged or addressed.”

Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu has further noted that the sale of cigarettes will be allowed under the country’s level 2 lockdown restrictions.

“The ban on cigarettes, it’s just at this level we are in. We don’t know how many weeks we will be at this level. I can assure you after we’ve been out of level 3, I don’t see the ban on the sale of cigarettes continuing,” he said.

The government’s decision to continue its prohibition on the sale of tobacco products is set to be heard in court over the coming weeks.

The Fair Trade Independent Tobacco Association (Fita) said it is currently finalising its supplementary court papers which it plans to serve on government on Friday (29 May). British American Tobacco South Africa (BATSA) said on Friday that it will also recommence with urgent legal proceedings to challenge the ban.

Alcohol

When asked about lifting the ban on the sale of alcohol under level 3 – and the potential burden this could place on the healthcare system – the president said that it is a risk, but one that he trusts will turn out okay.

“One thing I do know in navigating Covid-19, is that everything we do is a risk. We’re taking lots of risks, and we’re trying to manage risks,” he said.

Ramaphosa said that putting the country into lockdown to begin with was a massive risk – one which turned out “okay” – and so were the subsequent moves to level 4, and now to level 3.

“We must trust our people,” he said. “We trusted our people with wearing masks, now everywhere I go I see people wearing masks. They’re washing their hands, nobody is shaking hands that I know of, and people no longer hug.”

“That to me instils a continued level of trust,” he said.

Under lockdown level 3, alcohol will be available for sale from Monday to Thursday, between 09h00 and 17h00.

You can view the full interview below.


Read: South Africa’s level 3 lockdown – what you need to know, including the times you can buy alcohol

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Ramaphosa on South Africa’s cigarette ban, alcohol sales, and a move to lockdown level 2