The temporary suspension of alcohol sales was implemented as a result of “lived evidence” and would allow the country’s healthcare sector to cope with coronavirus cases instead of booze-related trauma incidents, President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Wednesday.
“Out of the lived evidence that was given to us by our health workers and our medical advisory committee, we realised that hospital beds that we’ve got are now being utilised more and more since we have lifted the ban on alcohol by people who go to hospitals with trauma incidents, trauma cases that are alcohol-induced.
He was speaking during a virtual presidential imbizo on the coronavirus, during which citizens were encouraged to call in with questions. It is not a ban, it is a suspension to allow our health system to be able to cope,” he said.
Addressing if schools should remain open as the country enters its surge period, Ramaphosa quoted the World Health Organisation (WHO), which recently cautioned that schools should be opened in areas where the virus was contained.
Ramaphosa said resuming learning was a matter of great debate for South Africans, and added that teacher unions had come forward to recommend schools be closed after a number of teachers and pupils had been infected with Covid-19.
“It is a matter that is now being debated and discussed with the respective organisations and it will be given consideration by the National Coronavirus Command Council as well,” he said.
“So we are crossing the river by feeling our way on the stones, and sometimes we put our feet on slippery stones or rocks, and sometimes on firm ones. We are seeking to work together with our people.”
Ramaphosa said another important issue that needed discussion was citizens changing their behaviour, which remained the strongest defence against contracting the virus.
“If we change our ways, we will be able to have a great defence. It is by social distancing, it is by avoiding, as much as we can, human contact and it is also by ensuring that we wear our masks,” he said. He said people should also wash their hands regularly.
“I’d like to urge our people – let us protect ourselves as we protect those near us, those that we love. Because it is only when we do so that we will be able to defeat Covid-19.”
Speaking about the effect the pandemic has had on the economy, Ramaphosa said that 3 million people had reportedly lost their jobs due to Covid-19.
“We are now in the midst of Covid-19 and this is now what we are having to deal with, and our response has got to be robust, it’s got to be pointed so that we can protect our people as we move on.”
On Tuesday, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said that to date, the country had reported a total of 298 292 coronavirus infections, with 10 496 new cases identified since Monday. The total number of virus-related deaths was 4 346, while 146 279 people had thus far recovered.
In other news – President Cyril Ramaphosa defends alcohol ban