Limpopo Health MEC Phophi Ramathuba is holding discussions with liquor traders in the province about refusing to sell alcohol to unvaccinated customers.
Ramathuba told eNCA that dialogue has begun, although she reiterated that there is no national legislation that forces people to vaccinate.
“It is not compulsory in our country and that includes Limpopo. However, as a health department, we can’t just fold our arms and keep complaining about vaccine hesitancy when we know we can engage the liquor industry.”
Ramathuba said that the liquor industry is one of the segments which is hardest hit when a new wave of Covid-19 cases impacts the country, with the government quick to ban alcohol to help reduce the strain on hospitals.
The MEC said that there is now an opportunity for South Africa to avert a fourth Covid-19 wave of infections later this year, if enough people are vaccinated.
She said it was up to the liquor industry to decide whether it accepts the government’s proposals – but warned that alcohol could be banned again if another wave hits the country.
The ban on alcohol remains a sticking point for the liquor industry in South Africa, with the matter in court this week.
Vinpro, a non-profit company representing 3,500 South African wine producers, is challenging the government’s ongoing alcohol ban and fully reopen the industry.
South Africa has faced complete alcohol sales bans on four separate occasions since the end of March 2020 as part of the country’s lockdown restrictions.
Under the country’s current adjusted level 3 lockdown, which came into effect on 26 July, the sale of alcohol from retail outlets for off-site consumption is permitted between 10h00 and 18h00 from Monday to Thursday.
Alcohol sales for on-site consumption are permitted as per licence conditions up to 20h00.
Vinpro is now contesting the approach followed by the government towards liquor ban restrictions within the Disaster Management Act.
The case is set for hearing in the Western Cape High Court from 23 to 26 August 2021.
“Since the start of this pandemic, we have argued that the provinces, not the national government, should decide whether or not to impose liquor restrictions and should do so with reference to provincial circumstances, including the need to preserve capacity in trauma units in hospitals in the province,” said Vinpro managing director Rico Basson.
“We know provinces are affected differently by the pandemic; therefore, we believe a differentiated approach in handling the crisis is needed to limit the economic impact of a lockdown.”