It has taken a lot longer than many had hoped, but the penny may be dropping for members of the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC).
Earlier today, it was reported that South Africa could drop to alert level 2 by the end of the week, with directors-general of national departments (FOSAD) advising the council that the economy needs to be reopened as soon as possible.
The NCCC met yesterday, and now News24 is reporting that the advice given to the NCCC, as well as to Cabinet, included the lifting of the ban on the sale of cigarettes and alcohol.
President Ramaphosa chaired yesterday’s meeting, and the “overwhelming argument was in favour of fully reopening the economy”:
Four sources who have knowledge of the discussions told News24 that the economic devastation of the cigarette sales ban could no longer be justified. The country has lost billions of rand in tax revenue as a result of the ban and the illegal selling of cigarettes has flourished.
The same argument was made for the reinstated alcohol ban that has been in place for the last month…
A second source said: “We said this ban is not working. Cigarettes are sold. Alcohol is sold openly now. Our ban is pointless.”
I’ll pretend to be shocked about the fact that even police were buying booze on the black market.
At some stage this week, we should expect one of those 8PM-ish announcements from Ramaphosa.
Perhaps the seemingly endless court cases finally wore through the patience of the NCCC, with one tobacco industry insider telling News24 they were “very optimistic”, and that there had been “acknowledgement that the restrictions didn’t work”.
In addition to the loss of tax revenue, the NCCC meeting is reported to have included discussion around South Africa’s improving recovery rate, and the ability of hospitals to better handle the caseloads currently coming their way.
Perhaps now we can finally focus on ensuring our healthcare workers are adequately equipped with PPE, so that they’re not forced to risk their lives to save ours.
Again, nothing is yet finalised, but our extended booze and ciggie prohibition could be about to go up in smoke.
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