No vaccine, no booze

Limpopo Health MEC Phophi Ramathuba wants liquor outlets and tavern owners to stop selling alcohol to customers who have not received a Covid-19 vaccine.

In a recent interview with Jacaranda FM, Ramathuba confirmed that her department was in talks with representatives in the alcohol industry in her province to get them to impose a “no vaccine, no alcohol” policy.

The MEC said she believed businesses should have a right to refuse to sell alcohol to an unvaccinated person, and that this approach could help prevent the implementation of strict alcohol curbs that typically accompany a rise in positive Covid-19 cases.

“We know vaccination is not compulsory, but we as a public health division know that this disease will keep causing havoc,” Ramathuba said.

“What we are saying as the Limpopo Department of Health, is that what we have seen happen each time we get into a wave [of Covid-19 infections], the alcohol industry is the one that is being hard hit.”

“We are the first ones to lobby the Presidency and indicate that if we don’t put strict regulations on alcohol, we are forced to deal with alcohol-induced trauma cases. You find them having to compete with Covid-19 patients and that puts a lot of stress on our healthcare system.”

Ramathuba said her department wanted to work with the alcohol industry this time around.

“We know throughout the pandemic, these past 18 months, we have been working against each other, because we were doing what is best for the health of the nation but at the same time the alcohol industry has seen many people losing their jobs, as Health, we are again hard hit,” Ramathuba said.

“Because when you lose your job, stress kicks in, when stress kicks in, it is accompanied by depression and other medical conditions like diabetes and hypertension. As you’ve already lost your medical insurance, you also become our burden,” she added.

Phophi Ramathuba, Limpopo MEC for Health

Ramathuba said prohibiting alcohol sales based on vaccination status could be extended to other industries and sports events in particular.

“If nothing else, this sparks a debate, it gets people thinking about what is important, who says this will be limited to alcohol, either?”

“There could be a policy where you need a vaccination to enter a stadium. That could get more men vaccinated.”

“People need a bit of a push to understand why they should be vaccinated.”

Ramathuba’s department received praise for its vaccination strategy in recent weeks, after it initially indicated it did not have the R100 million it would need to undertake a successful rollout.

As of 23 August 2021, 23.5% of the province’s adult population had received at least one dose of the vaccine, which puts it third in the country behind the Western and Eastern Cape.

The department approached churches in rural areas to allow them to register congregants before services.

Leaders of the influential Zion Christian Church (ZCC), which has an estimated 12 million members, were also among the first in the province to get their vaccines.

Other interventions included sending mobile clinics into rural areas, while Ramathuba also visited the countryside to explain the vaccine’s benefits to people in person.

The full interview with Limpopo Health MEC Phophi Ramathuba on Jacaranda FM is embedded below.

Phophi Ramathuba interview on Jacaranda FM

Now read: Alcohol restrictions fight goes to court

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No vaccine, no booze