President Cyril Ramaphosa has referred to Nedlac the liquor industry concerns over another possible ban on alcohol sales as COVID-19 cases increase, writes MedicalBrief.
Industry bodies the National Liquor Traders Council and Liquor Traders Association of SA, which represents big players including the bulk of township-based taverns and bottle stores, wrote to Ramaphosa on Sunday requesting a meeting to discuss the response to the growing Covid-19 infections and a possible third wave in the country. ‘The Presidency has noted the (industry’s) submission and referred (them) to the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac), which represents business in discussions with government on Covid-19 responses,’ Ramaphosa’s spokesperson Tyrone Seale said, according to a report on BusinessLIVE.
The government introduced alcohol bans on three separate occasions in 2020 totalling about 20 weeks in a bid to reduce the number of trauma patients in hospitals that were overwhelmed by COVID-19 cases. The bans attracted widespread condemnation for the devastating effect on the economy, including R38bn in lost liquor sales, R27bn less tax revenue, job losses and billions in cancelled investment. Now there are fears that another ban may be on the cards.
TimesLIVE reports that in their letter, the liquor industry bodies said where restrictions in economic activity are required, these should be explained with clear end dates. ‘This allows businesses to plan, rather than facing an open-ended disruption which is significantly more difficult to manage and leads to far greater business distress and job losses. Setting clear end dates, or at least clear criteria upon which restrictions would be lifted (such as infection rates) is vital.’
‘There is no doubt that as a country, one of the most important lessons that we have learnt from our past experiences of dealing with the pandemic, is that we can still fight Covid-19 with a less negative impact on our economy.
‘In our case, liquor traders can continue to operate, subject to fully complying with safe operating standards, in a way that was not always possible previously,‘ the industry said.
Last week the SA Alcohol Policy Alliance (Saapa), a lobby group that says it wants to drive health-promoting alcohol policies, called for a fourth alcohol ban. In a statement on Politicsweb, Dean Macpherson, the DA’s MP and trade & industry spokesperson, said the government must reject attempts by lobby groups such as Saapa to sneak in liquor policy changes.
‘Any changes to legislation such as those proposed must only be done through a legislative process, not through the back door of an illogical and irrational ongoing State of Disaster.
‘It has become far too easy for government to target the liquor industry than to fix the collapsing healthcare system. Government is also more than welcome to put back on the table the Liquor Amendment Bill which has gathered dust under two successive Ministers. Then we can deal with any proposals put through by lobby groups.‘