The ban on the sale of tobacco products and alcohol may remain for much longer than some residents would like. According to National Health Minister Zweli Mkhize, the country is not ready for either of the bans to be lifted.
While answering questions during a visit to healthcare facilities in KwaZulu-Natal on Thursday [August 6], Mkhize explained that the bans remain in place because the threat of COVID-19 is not over yet, despite the promising recovery rate (72%) the country is experiencing and research showing the ban has served its purpose.
“On the issue of alcohol and tobacco, our focus as the health department is about the health of the nation and therefore where we think that certain practices will compromise the health of our people, we will not hesitate to stand on the side of the health of our people — and that’s where we stand,” he told reporters, according to TimesLIVE.
“Therefore when we deal with these issues, we take a view based on what we see as the situation on the ground. And when things change and we think it will be safe to ease off certain things, we will certainly do that,” he added.
Mkhize says there are still valid reasons why the ban on alcohol should remain in place, as hospital beds across the country continue to fill up. The need to reduce pressure on hospital resources and save lives is imperative.
“Our position is very simple: when we see that the numbers are improving and that the need for pressure for beds is not so threatening to the lives of our people, we will reconsider this. We haven’t come to that point yet.
“Right now we are growing through the surge. South Africans can appreciate that we are going through the surge and it is very unpredictable. We don’t know what is going to happen. We are very hopeful. We want to keep to that. There are reasons why we did it and we are going to answer those matters in court,” he concluded.
This week, the British American Tobacco South Africa (BATSA) case against the Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Department (Cogta) over the tobacco ban continued in court. BATSA’s lawyers argued that the ban is unconstitutional and is a violation of administrative law.
Lawyers representing Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma countered that the ban is necessary to save lives and focused on studies showing smokers are at higher risk of contracting respiratory illnesses.
The case has been reserved, and applicants await the final verdict.
Picture: Twitter / Zweli Mkhize