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To ban or not to ban: Beer SA warns against another alcohol ban over festive season

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Rumours are swirling that the increase in new Covid cases in South Africa, coupled with the projection of the fourth wave in December, could lead to another ban on the sale of alcohol.

Picture: Jacques Naude/African News Agency(ANA)

Durban – The Beer Association of South Africa has warned that the industry cannot afford another immediate ban on alcohol.

Rumours are swirling that the increase in new Covid cases in South Africa, coupled with the projection of the fourth wave in December, could lead to another ban on the sale of alcohol. However, neither the Covid-19 Ministerial Advisory Committee nor the SA government has confirmed a ban in the coming weeks.

BASA has written a letter to the Minister of Trade, Industry and Competition, asking for his urgent intervention at a Cabinet level, to ensure that irrational alcohol bans are no longer imposed, especially over the festive season, which is a critical time for our local beer industry and the thousands of jobs it supports.

BASA CEO Patricia Pillay said the previous four bans saw the beer industry losing 161 days of trade since March last year, putting just over 240 000 jobs at risk, with a tax revenue loss of R34.2 billion and R10.2 billion lost in excise revenue.

“No government funding or relief has been provided to assist our sector throughout this crisis, which has resulted in many small businesses being forced to close their doors permanently, including 27 craft breweries. South Africa currently has the highest unemployment rate in the world – any further job losses within the alcohol industry will have a devastating impact on our economy,” she said.

Pillay said the beer industry has repeatedly requested government to provide the scientific data and evidence on which the government has based their decision to enforce the previous alcohol bans.

She said when the country was moved to Alert Level 2 in September, bottle stores were allowed to operate for one extra day a week, on Fridays.

“Unsurprisingly, this was not what government’s scientific advisers had recommended. In fact, a memo from the Ministerial Advisory Committee indicated that any attempts to keep in place the ban on alcohol sales for off-site consumption on Saturdays was ‘difficult to justify’. This proves that government’s restrictions on alcohol have not been the result of an evidence-based approach,” she said.

The latest from the National Institute for Communicable Diseases shows that 868 new Covid-19 cases were reported, taking SA’s total to 2 948 760.

The NICD further reported an increase in the seven-day moving average for new Covid-19 cases and the percentage testing positive in Gauteng, particularly in Tshwane amongst 10 – 29-year-olds over the past week. It said experts have recently identified a cluster amongst the 20 – 44 age group at an institute of higher education in Tshwane.

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