A significant surge in Covid-19 cases in the Western and Eastern Cape of late has prompted fears of another potential ban on the sale and consumption of alcohol, as well as a harsher curfew.
Rumours have already surfaced, and went so far as to conjure up a fake news notice that a second alcohol ban would be reinstated, from 15 December to 3 January.
Although the message has been debunked as fake news, the alcohol and hospitality sector have been left slightly shaky at the prospect of going through another challenging economic phase.
When South Africa entered Level 5 lockdown in March, alcohol and tobacco products were pulled from shelves, resulting in devastating losses in both sectors.
There are fresh worries that Covid-19 cases, especially in the Eastern Cape’s Nelson Mandela Bay municipality and Sarah Baartman district, have risen sharply, and could mean the dawn of a second wave of the novel coronavirus.
The province expressed concern that Level 1 lockdown regulations are also being consistently flouted by the alcohol sector.
This has prompted a multi-sectoral approach between government, police and the alcohol industry to curb the rise in infections.
In the Western Cape, Premier Alan Winde has consistently tabled possible strategies to curb the possible resurgence of Covid-19 cases, and to fully prepare its health system so as not to overwhelm it if cases do increase.
“At this stage, no decision has been taken yet on localised restrictions, and we are still seeking legal advice on what is possible, given that disaster restrictions are imposed by National Government, and not by provinces.”
However, Winde emphasised that preventing another lockdown would devastate South Africa’s economy.
Following Covid-19 protocols such as wearing masks, sanitising and practicing social distancing is key, Winde said, to “make a major dent in this resurgence”.
Sun International has made it clear that rumours within the sector are indeed doing the rounds, but at this point, there is no indication of an alcohol ban. However, they said the lack of information is fueling whispers of another lockdown, but that “nothing is tangible”.
They have stepped up their emphasis to implore all citizens, visitors, tourists and restaurant patrons, as well as establishments, to wear their masks and practice social distancing.
Some establishments have one just reopened and begun to recoup the money lost during the harsh lockdowns in the country earlier this year, they added.
The South African Liquor Brand owners Association (Salba) said the following when asked about the rumours: “The alcohol industry has declined to comment on the current speculation about the lockdown regulations”.
Other players in the sector said the situation can only become clearer once meetings with the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) is concluded.
Sources alluded to discussions becoming more tangible and open to the public by Wednesday.
The Eastern Cape health department was approached for comment, but failed to respond by the time of publication.
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