Council mulls booze-shedding over Christmas

Johannesburg- The government plans to impose tougher restrictions on alcohol sales over the festive season as the country grapples with the fourth wave of Covid-19 driven by the Omicron variant.

Sunday World understands the government wants to reduce the number of days on which booze can be sold in an effort to slow the spread of the variant, which is more transmittable than Delta.

The National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC), led by President Cyril Ramaphosa, met on Wednesday amid a rapid rise in numbers of new Covid-19 infections. There are fears that the virus will spread faster during the festive season and lead to more hospitalisations. However, Ramaphosa is reportedly reluctant to reintroduce a total ban on alcohol sales.

The NCCC will meet again this week to make a decision.

A member of the NCCC said the government wants to ensure that the alcohol industry and economy, in general, are not hit hard by lockdown measures.

“We will finalise the measures on alcohol sale and other areas next week,” he said on condition of anonymity.

A senior official in the Department of Health said Ramaphosa is not keen on introducing harsh lockdown measures in the wake of the release of job numbers, which show unemployment reached a record 34.9% in the third quarter of the year.

Covid-19 strategist and public health expert Dr Velile Ngidi said a harder lockdown is undesirable in an ailing economy. “Strict lockdown has a detrimental effect on the livelihoods, economy and tourism. The argument is that people do not vaccinate because they have concerns. We need to address that first.”

Professor Shabir Madhi, the expert vaccinologist and director of vaccines and infectious diseases analytics research at Wits University, noted that there was widespread apathy to take the jab, especially among younger people.

“We must make it clear … that vaccination is the only way to stop the transmission of the virus, including death and hospitalisation, that may arise from being infected.”

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