Finally, alcohol and cigarettes are back, as South Africans welcome ease in covid-19 restrictions
After a long controversial ban on alcohol and cigarettes, the restriction has been reversed. The lockdown was partly to curb the spread of the virus.
A few minutes after the directive, long queues of eager shoppers formed to buy cigarettes and alcohol. The government supported the policy reversal with the falling covid-19 cases. South Africa has over 500,000 infections and 11,000 deaths in the current tally. On the bright side, the country has been testing more than its African partners.
Tobacco companies will proceed to sue the government over the 5-month long ban. South Africa was the only country to effect such a ban worldwide. Justification for the move was defended by the 2002 Disaster Management Act, where the ban was reasoned on health grounds. Medical experts support the ban arguing it was important for their fellow countrymen to live healthily and avoid any unnecessary pressure on health services. Other experts, argued an increased spread of covid-19 droplets from smokers could potentially infect other smoke inhalers.
The Fair Trade Independent Tobacco Association (FITA), which represents 80% of the nation’s cigarette manufacturers, got a reprieve after the Supreme court gave them the right to Appeal.
FITA had initially filed a suit against the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs for imposing a ban not backed by medical evidence. Organization such as the Heart and Stroke Foundation and the Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA) also supported the ban.
The 2002 Disaster Management Act has previously been used to stop xenophobic attacks against foreigners in South Africa. It was also imposed during the 2010-11 flooding season. Some legal experts believe that the smoke ban could be unconstitutional as there is hardly any link between smoking and covid (which was the purpose of the smoking ban in the first place).
The new normal?
The new directive is the second time the country has lifted the ban on alcohol - after a brief July attempt. With restrictions now at level two, people are expected to travel in-between provinces. Meanwhile, visiting family and friends is allowed for people in small groups of 10. Most parks and beaches can now open. Despite the ease in restrictions, wearing of face masks is mandatory.
Stores can only sell alcohol from Mondays to Thursdays between 09:00 and 17:00, and the night-time curfew from 22:00 to 04:00 remains to enforce. Many elated South Africans took to social media to express their delight.
You can already see the smoke from happy smokers on satellite images in South Africa after the ban on sale of cigarettes have been lifted pic.twitter.com/C0LPR2yWjM
— Petri van Zyl (@Petrivz) August 18, 2020