Liquor traders have welcomed the move to lockdown alert level 1 but say this is not enough and government should do away with lockdowns and liquor bans entirely.
In a statement, the National Liquor Traders (NLT) has called on President Cyril Ramaphosa to find alternative to means to complement vaccine drives, since scientific expert opinion has it that a fourth wave of Covid-19 infections is near inevitable, and the current approach has not been successful in stemming the tide.
They say they are committed to taking a leading role in driving vaccinations as a means to reduce infections, and will even host tavern rallies around the country where vaccinations will be done onsite.
“The National Liquor Traders is relieved that the rate of Covid-19 infections has declined and that the country is able to move to level 1. However, the experts say a fourth wave is almost inevitable and this means the pace of vaccinations must increase.
“We cannot afford another round of harsh restrictions and bans on alcohol. We call on everyone to get vaccinated as soon as possible and help put this pandemic behind us,” their statement reads.
In a quote attributed to Lucky Ntimane, NLT convener, the statement said: “There can never be any doubt that the alcohol industry has been the hardest hit when it comes to lockdowns and unjustified bans which were not rooted in science nor common sense.
“Whilst we welcome the announcement by president Ramaphosa to return the country to level 1 effective 1st October, we feel that humane interventions need to be considered in future to deal with Covid-19 bar subjecting the lives and livelihoods of those dependent on the alcohol industry to abject poverty.”
Ntimane asked government to explore alternatives to alcohol bans in future, “precisely because bans on alcohol have not been proven to be an effective measure to containing Covid-19, if anything they have created a second pandemic – poverty – amongst liquor traders, of which such a pandemic requires no vaccine to manage but a sensible government that takes the needs of its people to heart”.
They would prefer alternatives to the ongoing lockdown which are rooted in science, and Ntimane says: “It is common knowledge that there is no link between Covid-19 and alcohol and trying to ban alcohol to manage Covid-19 is akin to cutting one’s head off because they have a headache.”
They warn that government runs the risk of destroying a sector which provides work to over 250,000 South Africans via shebeens and taverns alone, and anticipate that more than 10,000 taverns face permanent closure.
“The recovery of the tavern sector will take months if not years and the continued snub of this sector by government in terms of financial relief means that their demise will be accelerated.”
Expert agrees that lockdown no longer required
The country’s foremost expert on vaccinology, professor at the University of the Witwatersrand, Shabir Madhi, on Thursday also suggested that lockdown levels are no longer necessary. No more lockdown?
Madhi said restrictions were “probably not needed anymore”, with the only beneficial restrictions he would keep being the limitation of numbers at large gatherings “especially indoor gatherings in poorly ventilated spaces”.
Madhi said: “All of the data indicates […] the level of restrictions haven’t done much when it comes to the actual number of people who have been infected.”