Churches and the alcohol industry are keeping their fingers crossed ahead of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s expected national address on whether his government will tighten lockdown restrictions as a precautionary measure during the Easter weekend.
Ramaphosa’s cabinet was last week expected to meet and discuss the possible introduction of a higher lockdown level over the Easter holiday.
This was after the government was advised to go on a stricter lockdown level, as a precautionary measure for the upcoming holiday season.
Chairperson of the Ministerial Advisory Committee on COVID-19 said gatherings and festivities during the period could result in increased COVID-19 numbers.
IOL reported on Monday that the Acting Minister in the Presidency, Khumbudzo Ntshavheni confirmed that the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) had discussions about how best to handle the long weekend.
Super spreader events
“The NCCC is considering what measures should be taken during that period. We cannot discuss the advice provided by the ministerial advisory committee. There are plans on the table that are being considered and when the time is right, we all know that the president will convene a family meeting,” Ntshavheni was quoted as saying.
Last week, churches and the liquor industry voiced their concerns about a harsh lockdown level.
Pastors from different churches in Cape Town demanded 100% capacity in their churches over the Easter weekend.
Last year, due to stringent lockdown regulations, churches had to shut their doors and could not partake in the Easter celebrations.
Ahead of this year’s Easter weekend, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize told SABC in an interview on Wednesday last week that super-spreader events needed to be discouraged over the long weekend.
But the pastors remained adamant, churches could not be super spreaders.
Sale of alcohol
“Church cannot be a super-spreader if their activities are not super spreaders. The church is very compliant, we know what needs to be done. If businesses are operating and being compliant, then the church will do the same,” IOL quoted provincial convener of Pastors Against Church Closures Pastor Z Baliso as saying.
Under the current eased lockdown restrictions, the maximum number of people allowed at any gathering – including religious, social, political and cultural gatherings – is 100 people indoors or 250 people outdoors.
Meanwhile, the alcohol industry also warned the government not to include any bans on the sale of alcohol.
According to Business Insider, the liquor industry said that government should instead lengthen curfew, and reduce the number of people allowed to gather, ahead of the Easter weekend.
The stakeholders also said that restrictions on liquor should be reserved “only if hospital capacity becomes severely stretched”.
They also said that any curfew measures and alcohol restrictions, if they are introduced should still allow off-premises sales to allow for home consumption, BusinessTech reported.
“We do not think that a total ban on alcohol sales will be a solution either in the short or long term.
“A complete shutdown of liquor sales would mean an end to the tartan market and the 250 000 direct jobs linked to the sector,” they said.
Picture: Cape Town etc gallery