Thapelo Lekabe

By Thapelo Lekabe

Senior Digital Journalist

Another alcohol ban? Covid-19 regulations could empower govt to impose restrictions once again

The deadline for the public to comment on the proposed regulations is on Sunday.

With the deadline approaching for the public to comment on the proposed new regulations on managing Covid-19, the National Liquor Traders (NLT) has raised concerns that the regulations could empower government to implement another alcohol ban in the near future.

The public has until Sunday, 24 April 2022, to make submissions on the draft amendments to the National Health Act.

The regulations have been introduced by government to respond to Covid-19 and other notifiable conditions outside the Disaster Management Act.

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The NLT submitted its comments to the Department of Health this week, raising the alarm over government imposing future bans on alcohol sales.

The organisation on Friday said it was concerned that draft regulation 16M (g) could create conditions that would empower government to restrict the “sale, dispensing and consumption of alcohol” in a manner similar to the way previous alcohol bans were imposed.

NLT convenor Lucky Ntimane said the regulation presupposed that alcohol had a direct causal relationship to the spread of notifiable communicable diseases like Covid-19.

 “We have on numerous occasions asked government to provide evidence of causality between alcohol and Covid-19. To this day, no evidence has been provided to back the claim of causality,” Ntimane said in a letter addressed to the health department, dated 21 April 2022.  

Scientific evidence

He said the NLT had always called for government’s response to Covid-19 to be rational and based on scientific evidence to ensure that alcohol traders’ businesses were not negatively affected by restrictions on booze sales.

“It is thus our view that regulation 16M (g) should be removed from the draft regulations as it negates the very scientific basis government has been claiming to be basing its decisions on.”

The other proposed amendments to the National Health Act were a positive step toward the effective management of Covid-19, the NLT said.

The organisation said it would continue to support government efforts to manage the virus.

“But we call on government to give practical expression to ‘social compacting’ by making sure that it does not leave social partners out of meaningful conversations.

“All social partners, including the private sector, must be afforded space and opportunity to shape discussions that have an impact on the lives and livelihoods of our people.

“The private sector does not only denote big business. Shebeens and Taverners are, in essence, and by definition, an important segment of the private sector.”

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