There is broad agreement and expectation in the alcohol industry that the latest ban on tipple is set to be relaxed on Sunday evening in what has become known as a “family meeting” after a fourth ban of nearly a month that cost the industry R1.5 billion or more and placed added strain on restaurants and the travel sector.
It has been estimated that R500 million worth of alcohol stock was looted and has been circulating in the black market, along with the standard black market supply chains that have developed over the past year, following the riots this month in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.
With the third wave of Covid-19 infections on the decline, particularly in Gauteng, there may also be a relaxation of the curfew hours, which currently run from 9pm to 4am each day, with South Africa in Alert Level 4 of the adjusted lockdown measures.
Travel across Gauteng’s border has also been restricted, inflicting a heavy blow on the already hard-hit domestic travel sector. Restrictions on religious gatherings have also been severe.
On Saturday evening, South Africa had recorded 12,056 new confirmed Covid-19 cases, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 2,368,105.
According to the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD), the 12,056 new cases represented a 24.3% positivity rate.
NICD spokesperson Sinenhlanhla Jimoh said the majority of new cases on Saturday were from Gauteng, contributing 30% of the cases, followed by the Western Cape at 21%.
“The total number of cases today [Saturday] is lower than yesterday [13,719] but higher than the average number of new cases per day over the seven preceding days. The seven-day moving average daily number of cases has decreased,” Jimoh said.
In the past 24 hours, South Africa recorded 413 Covid-19 related deaths, bringing the number of total fatalities to date to 69,488.
Jimoh added that 14,527,278 tests had been conducted in the public and private sector.
Hospital admissions increased by 455 in the past 24 hours.
Acting Health Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane this week recognised the added complications and pressures that last week’s violence had placed on the health system.
There had been a decrease in the number of vaccinations due to the closure of vaccination sites and a loss of vaccines due to looting.
“An estimated 120 private pharmacies were destroyed, which led to a loss of approximately 47,500 vaccine doses and lots of damage to infrastructure,” she said.
“All indications are that we have passed the peak of the third wave and the overall number of cases have started to decline. However, we are extremely worried that the many gatherings we saw during the unrest in the two provinces, Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal, might lead to another surge in numbers,” she added.
KwaZulu-Natal premier Sihle Zikalala said on Saturday that 89 liquor outlets and eight liquor distributors were looted in his province, with similar scenes having been witnessed in Gauteng.
The Tourism Business Council of South Africa said on Friday that the travel, tourism, and hospitality sector has seen major financial losses during the current advance level 4 restrictions.
“With approximately 60% of domestic travellers being from Gauteng and given that the province is the central connective point of the country, travellers, and commuters transit through when exploring surrounding provinces. This means that the entire tourism economy in the country is negatively affected. In the aviation sub-sector, close to 40% of travel is impacted as the OR Tambo International Airport accounts for over a third of annual domestic travel”, said TBCSA’s CEO Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa.
“We call on government to lift the alcohol ban and allow responsible trading by these entities to continue to sustain businesses and livelihoods”, said Tshivhengwa.
The events, conferencing, exhibition and related businesses have also not been able to meaningfully resume operations since the beginning of the lockdown. This has resulted in many jobs along the value chain being lost and many small businesses closing. We call on government to lift the restrictions and allow a reasonable amount of people to attend events following protocols that are already established.
In addition to these already disastrous lockdown effects, the recent unrest and subsequent riots in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng have caused damage to infrastructure and businesses, meaning there is another hammering factor towards job loss. Reopening the hospitality and alcohol industries will have visible positive impact on the affected provinces.
“Domestic travel is a key pillar for the recovery of the tourism sector and consideration should be given to the lifting of the interprovincial travel and liquor bans as tourism recovery is imperative for the revival of the economy of SA” , Tshivhengwa added.