Three things need to change before booze and tobacco sales can be allowed: Zweli Mkhize

07 August 2020 - 11:57
By Unathi Nkanjeni
Zweli Mkhize says SA is not at the point where alcohol and cigarettes can be sold again as the Covid-19 threat is not over. File photo.
Image: Simphiwe Nkwali/Sowetan Zweli Mkhize says SA is not at the point where alcohol and cigarettes can be sold again as the Covid-19 threat is not over. File photo.

Another day, another reason — or at least three — why the bans on alcohol and cigarette sales should remain in place.  

On Thursday, health minister Zweli Mkhize said the country was not ready to lift the restrictions on alcohol and tobacco..

Mkhize is on a two-day tour in KwaZulu-Natal, visiting health-care facilities ahead of what is expected to be a peak in Covid-19 cases in the weeks to come.

To date, the province has 90,115 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and 1,116 deaths. The province has the third-most confirmed cases in SA. Gauteng has 187,631 cases and the Western Cape 98,599.

Mkhize said pressure on hospitals has been reduced and the recovery rate is now above 70%, but more work was still needed  before alcohol and cigarette sales could be allowed again. This was because  the threat to the nation's health was not over.

Here are three things that need to change, according to Mkhize; 

  • We have to ensure our health-care workers are protected and there is a decline in new coronavirus infections.
  • We need to make sure infection does not pass from patient to health-care worker and vice versa.
  • We need to see the numbers are improving and the pressure for hospital beds is not  threatening lives.

Mkhize did not mention the science behind the three reasons.

'Covid-19 is a reality'

Mkhize again emphasised the pandemic was no longer something happening in China, Italy and America.

“It is a reality. Now each one of us can talk about friends, relatives, and colleagues who have suffered infection. It makes it very different from the time we started talking about Covid-19 at the beginning of March,” he said. “Through our models and the reality on the ground, we were expecting numbers would increase. We expected a surge at some point during the winter months.”

Mkhize said the early lockdown delayed the increase in cases the country now faces.

“What we have seen in the past few months has been a very different presentation of the Covid-19 pandemic from what we initially thought it would be. We initially thought it would be a huge surge in the entire country, with Gauteng recording the most cases,” Mkhize said.

He said the surge didn’t come quite as early as May or June, when the government had initially thought it would arrive.

“All our modellers indicated that the fact that we had an early lockdown deferred the surge to about June and July,” he said.