'People are behaving as if Covid-19 does not exist': revellers raise red flags

09 December 2020 - 12:11
By TimesLIVE
Patrons are throwing caution to the wind at taverns in Buffalo City. Stock photo.
Image: 123RF/Somchai Jongmeesuk Patrons are throwing caution to the wind at taverns in Buffalo City. Stock photo.

The Eastern Cape Liquor Board (ECLB) has sounded the alarm over liquor outlets and patrons openly flouting health protocols as Covid-19 infections surge in Buffalo City.

“It is extremely concerning that our people have become so complacent and are behaving as if Covid-19 does not exist at all,” said ECLB chief executive officer Dr Nombuyiselo Makala.

East London, Bhisho, King William’s Town and Mdantsane have emerged as hotspots in the metro, mayor Xola Pakati confirmed to DispatchLIVE on Monday.

He said critically ill patients from Mthatha are being moved to KwaZulu-Natal facilities because local hospitals are full.

On Tuesday evening, health minister Zweli Mkhize said there were 7,983 active cases of Covid-19 in the Eastern Cape. He said 82 deaths were recorded in the province over the most recent 24-hour cycle.

“The ECLB has observed, with serious concern, that many patrons who frequent liquor outlets completely disregard the Covid 19 health protocols. Often they do not wear masks and do not observe social distancing,” the board said.

"Some liquor outlets allow overcrowding in their establishments, which invariably undermines social distancing. Some liquor outlets ignore the trading times and trade outside the regulated trading hours.”

The board viewed these liquor outlets as potential superspreader venues in the province.

“In response to this increasingly untenable situation in our liquor outlets, ECLB is intensifying its efforts to enforce compliance with Covid-19 restrictions and liquor licences,” it said.

“Regular visits to liquor outlets are being conducted to clamp down on those that do not comply with regulations.

"In the event liquor outlets are found to be flouting regulations, strict measures are taken to ensure such a behaviour does not recur. Part of the intervention incorporates educating communities on the dangers of reckless consumption of alcohol which may potentially exacerbate Covid-19 cases in the province.”

HeraldLIVE reported earlier that patrons were arrested in Motherwell in Nelson Mandela Bay for flouting Covid-19 restrictions at the weekend.

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The board on Wednesday shared liquor trading regulations specific to Nelson Mandela Bay municipality due to it being classified as a Covid-19 hotspot:

  • bottle stores and chain store retailers are only permitted to sell liquor from Monday to Thursday between 10am and 6pm;
  • licence holders can sell liquor according to their trading conditions, except all people, including staff, must be home by 10pm;
  • everybody must wear a face mask, sanitise and maintain a social distance of 1.5m; and
  • venues cannot accommodate more than 50% of their capacity .

Makala said: “Preventing the spread of Covid-19 is everyone's responsibility, including the patrons who visit liquor outlets. It cannot be left only to the discretion of  liquor traders.”

Residents were urged to report cases of non-compliance to their nearest police station or to the ECLB toll-free complaints line at 0800-000-420 or via WhatsApp at 076-403-6223.