Premier Oscar Mabuyane has welcomed the new alcohol ban, saying the sale of alcohol had put “an unwanted strain” on the Eastern Cape health-care system.
President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the ban on Sunday night to a widespread uproar from citizens and the business sector.
Mabuyane had previously announced that they wanted the national coronavirus command council to impose a fresh alcohol ban in the Eastern Cape before making a U-turn, saying Bhisho would work with the industry to educate people about the dangers of alcohol abuse.
But in a statement on Tuesday, Mabuyane said he was “extremely pleased” with Sunday’s announcement.
Mabuyabe said the new alcohol ban would give the liquor industry stakeholders and the government enough time to work together to implement an effective behavioural change campaign on responsible alcohol use and consumption.
“We are extremely pleased in particular with the return of a suspension of the sale, dispensing and distribution of alcohol which we called for a week after it was lifted in June.
“Liquor sales have really put an unwanted strain on our healthcare system and we applaud the decision to suspend it again.”
The Eastern Cape saw a crime spike with 3,145 cases reported in the province within a week of lifting the alcohol ban at the start of June, which put hospitals under severe pressure because of the rise in trauma cases.
The premier said Eastern Cape Liquor Board inspectors (ECLB) and law enforcement agencies would monitor and enforce strict adherence to the new liquor regulations by paying impromptu visits to alcohol outlets.
“Where transgressions are identified, necessary steps will be taken to curtail such behaviour.
“While the law enforcement agencies will ensure that the non-compliant outlet owner is promptly arrested and liquor confiscated, ECLB inspectors will help verify whether or not the outlet is licensed and may recommend the suspension of a licence.”
The Eastern Cape had 52,058 confirmed cases, 709 deaths, and 32,083 recoveries at the time of writing on Tuesday afternoon.
Mabuyane said the recovery rate of the province was at 66%, with most of the people who have recovered not needing hospitalisation.
He said changes had been made to testing protocols. Asymptomatic people who might have come into contact with someone who had tested positive would no longer be tested, but screened and quarantined.
“Those who are positive and have severe symptoms are hospitalised for treatment and oxygen support to reduce poor health outcomes.”
Mabuyane also reiterated the community-based Covid-19 response plan which he announced last week.
The new plan, which was introduced in 87 wards in Buffalo City and Nelson Mandela Bay metros, has been finalised, he said.
He said R409m had been allocated towards health infrastructure in the province.
“Thus far R2.2bn of the required R4.1bn has been allocated towards the health intervention of the Covid-19 containment and mitigation strategy.
“To this end the provincial Treasury and relevant lead departments are continuously revising financial projections.”
Mabuyane said the risk of infection for health workers remained high and more than 2,285 people in the health sector contracted Covid-19, with 28 fatalities.
“We have put together 1,229 social workers in 86 teams in the province to provide support to the people of our province who require psychosocial support during this pandemic.”
He said from the R29.7bn paid to employers from the temporary employer/employee relief scheme fund by the department of employment & labour, R1.6bn had been paid to 35,779 employers to benefit 385,410 qualifying workers whose income has been affected by the pandemic in the province.
By Bhongo Jacob – DisptachLIVE