The South African Liquor Brand Owners Association has warned that a new alcohol ban will have a devastating effect on the industry.
This comes after the Ministerial Advisory Committee (MAC) has recommended that South Africa be put into a higher level of lockdown over the Easter weekend.
The committee said stricter lockdown rules, which include a potential move to alert level 2, could help to prevent a surge in COVID-19 infections.
“Over this period there is a risk that we could see super spreader events with all the festivities and activities that go on over the Easter weekend,” said MAC chair professor Barry Schoub.
“So, the advisory is for a temporary increase in lockdown restrictions over this period of time.”
Health minister Zweli Mkhize confirmed that a decision to move the country to a higher lockdown level is now being discussed by government officials.
Mkhize said the government wants to discourage super-spreader events over the Easter weekend and avoid inter-provincial movement which could lead to spreading the virus.
The decision about lockdown restrictions will be based on recommendations from epidemiological experts, business, and members of civil sector, the minister said.
The contemplated lockdown restrictions include wider curfew hours, restrictions on gatherings, and limiting the sale of alcohol.
The South African Liquor Brand Owners Association (SALBA) has now warned that severe restrictions on the sale of alcohol can hurt the already struggling industry.
SALBA chairperson Sibani Mngadi told Newzroom Africa that the three alcohol bans over the last year crushed the alcohol industry.
Their research showed the industry lost R38 billion in sales because of the bans while the government lost R9 billion in taxes.
“We believe around 200,000 jobs are at risk in the overall value chain in our industry,” Mngadi said.
Should South Africa face another alcohol ban, he said, it will cause further deterioration and even a collapse of the industry.
In a pre-emptive strike, the association presented an alternative proposal which deals with short-term pressure on hospitals during a COVID-19 surge while maintaining economic viability of the alcohol industry.
It said measures to alleviate the impact on the healthcare system can be implemented in a less damaging manner than a ban on alcohol sales.
SALBA’s recommendations for the Easter weekend include:
- Apply a 23:00 to 04:00 curfew.
- Reduce permitted numbers for gatherings to a 50% of capacity and a maximum of 50 people indoors and 100 people outdoors.
- Interprovincial travel should be allowed to protect the economic recovery and growth in the tourism and hospitality sector.
- Alcohol sales should continue under current licence conditions, with restrictions being introduced only if hospital capacity becomes severely stretched.
Mngadi said these proposals will help to alleviate trauma cases, especially from interpersonal violence and car accidents, while protecting the alcohol industry against further collapse.