Government has resisted the strong push from the tobacco lobby for the sale of cigarettes to be allowed and announced the limited sale of alcohol from June 01.
President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced that the whole country will move to level 3 of the lockdown from June 1, in a move that will see over 8 million people returning to work and most sectors of the economy opening.
However, the sale of tobacco, which has been a contentious issue in the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC), remains prohibited while alcohol will be sold under strict conditions that will be announced by Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma.
Dlamini Zuma has been the target of the tobacco manufacturers, including the British American Tobacco of South Africa, which recently made an about turn on its threat to take legal action to force government to allow the sale of cigarettes.
Supporters of Dlamini Zuma in the ANC – especially the ANC Women’s League – have complained that she was being singled out for decisions made by the NCCC and the Cabinet, including the U-turn on the announcement by Ramaphosa that tobacco will be allowed under level 4 of the lockdown.
“The sale of tobacco products will remain prohibited in alert level 3 due to the health risks associated with smoking,” Ramaphosa said.
The president also moved to announce that e-commerce will be allowed, that people could exercise anytime of the day and the dropping of the curfew between 8pm and 5am – issues that formed the basis of the DA’s legal challenge.
Government also abandoned plans to keep hotspots such as the metros – which account for most of the country’s COVID-19 cases – remaining on level 4 of the lockdown.
Premier of Gauteng David Makhura and his Western Cape counterpart Alan Winde had already indicated that they wanted their provinces to be moved to level 3 to bolster the economy. The metros are the economic engines of the country.
Places identified as hotposts include Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni, Ethekwini, Nelson Mandela Bay, Buffalo City and Cape Town.
The West Coast, Overberg and Cape Winelands district municipalities in the Western Cape, Chris Hani district in the Eastern Cape and iLembe district in KwaZulu-Natal were other hotspots.
Ramaphosa reiterated that “the coronavirus pandemic in South Africa is going to get much worse before it gets better”. New infections expected to increase further and faster. This as the country recorded 22 583 cases of the virus, with 429 deaths.
“I want to emphasise that the easing of some restrictions does not mean that the threat posed by the coronavirus has passed or that our fight against the disease is over. In fact, the risk of a massive increase in infections is now greater than it has been since the start of the outbreak in our country. At this time, more than any other, we are reminded of the words of Madiba, when he said ‘ it is now in your hands’,” he said.