Cyril’s new restrictions too lenient, say experts

Experts argued that the best way to flatten the Covd-19 curve would have been to close all restaurants and ban alcohol sales.

Experts in the alcohol industry said adjusted level 2 lockdown implemented by President Cyril Ramaphosa was fairly lenient, especially because Gauteng was already in the third wave.

Professor Charles Parry, Director of the Alcohol, Tobacco & Other Drugs Research Unit at the South African Medical Research Council, said further steps should have been taken in the President’s address to avoid consideration of a full blown ban later.

“There would be benefits from the curfew and restaurants and bars closing early which would reduce some of the alcohol related trauma and pressure in hospitals, so the decision made sense for short term but I think we should be doing more,” he said.

Public health lawyer Safura Abdool Karim said the decision to move to level 2 was not entirely motivated by public health and noted there was a lot of compromise and deference towards the economic effect of lockdown.

“The concession was the restrictions were quite lenient compared to previous ones and obviously government had to balance tension between promoting public health and preserving economic interest,” she said.

Abdool Karim said the best way to flatten the curve would have been to close all restaurants and ban alcohol sales.

“Although there is still space in hospitals, stringent measures were necessary.

“It is clear our measures will not be sufficient and there is going to be a need to introduce more stringent restrictions on alcohol,” she said.

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The director of Southern African Alcohol Policy Alliance (Saapa) Maurice Smithers said there should have been a restriction on alcohol and its advertising.

“There is no point in encouraging people to drink more by advertising the alcohol and making it cheaply available,” he said.

Smithers said there had to be a plan to prevent alcohol from contributing to the spread of the virus.

“We have to find a way that prevents alcohol from being a super spreader and avoid the economic consequences of a complete lockdown because we saw what happened when alcohol was banned last time,” he said.

National Liquor Traders Council (NTLC) spokesman Lucky Ntimane welcomed the government’s decision not to place any restrictions on the sale of alcohol.

“Allowing licensed businesses to continue operating reduced the opportunity for the illicit trade to flourish,” he said.

The chief executive of Restaurants Association South Africa (RUSA), Wendy Alberts, said she was appreciative of the decision not to ban alcohol.

“We are the industry which has been hit the hardest during this pandemic,” she said.