South Africa has lifted a coronavirus-linked ban on the sale of alcohol and tobacco, as the President said infections appear to have peaked in the country.
In a televised address, delivered on Saturday, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a sweeping removal of lockdown restrictions on the economy, to come into effect this week.
As well as lifting the alcohol ban, Ramaphosa also said that the government would allow restaurants and taverns to return to normal business, subject to strict hygiene regulations. Restrictions on domestic travel have also been removed.
“All indications are that South Africa has reached the peak and moved beyond the inflection point of the curve,” said Ramaphosa, cited by Reuters.
South Africa first imposed an outright ban on alcohol sales in March and lifted it on 1 June, but reinstituted it mid-July.
Last week, SpiritsEurope urged the South African government to provide a clear and reliable timeline to quickly lift the ban.
According to SpiritsEurope, the alcohol beverage sector is one of the country’s biggest employers, accounting for more than 1 million direct and indirect jobs.
The organisation said that the ban was having ‘dire economic consequences’ for the entire supply and distribution chain and was being ‘felt’ among major trading partners, such as the European Union.
Ramaphosa added: “The further easing of restrictions presents us with the greatest opportunity since the start of the pandemic to breathe life into our struggling economy.”
According to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, South Africa has had the highest number of deaths from Covid-19 of any country in Africa, despite tough lockdown measures.
However, Ramaphosa said rates of new infections had fallen to an average of 5,000 a day, from a peak of 12,000, according to Reuters.
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