The liquor industry has been left fuming after government suspended the sale of alcohol.
According to the industry’s regulatory bodies, a further restriction on sales would have a disastrous economic impact, affecting as many as a million workers.
Addressing the nation on Sunday, President Cyril Ramaphosa said: “There is now clear evidence that the resumption of alcohol sales has resulted in substantial pressure being put on hospitals, including trauma and ICU units, due to motor vehicle accidents, violence and related trauma.”
South African Liquor Brandowners’ Association chief executive Kurt Moore said: “As an industry we are deeply concerned about the surge of Covid-19 infections. However, any additional restriction on sales, including an outright ban, shorter trading hours or further restrictions on trading, would likely increase panic buying and overcrowding at retail outlets.
“In addition to the increased transmission risk, a further restriction in sales would have a disastrous economic impact on the industry and continue to exacerbate the loss of revenue.”
Beer Association of South Africa chief executive Patricia Pillay added: “We are all in this fight together and as an industry we are committed to working with the government to find solutions, which includes prioritising lives and safeguarding livelihoods across the sector during this pandemic, while ensuring that we adhere to safety, responsible trading, and the sensible consumption of alcohol.”
Premier Alan Winde said: “This is a blunt mechanism that will negatively impact the Western Cape economy and the agri-processing sector and will result in job losses across the province.
“It will also push the sale of alcohol underground. To put it simply, while this may help in the short term, the problem is not going to go away and a long-term ban is not feasible,” he said.
Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said the easing of alcohol sales restrictions in level 3 resulted in a 60% increase in trauma emergency centre admissions, and an almost 200% increase in ICU admissions.