The alcohol industry has welcomed government's decision to keep South Africa at Alert Level 1 lockdown and supports calls for South Africans who have not yet been vaccinated against Covid-19 to urgently get their vaccinations.
“Economic recovery of the alcohol, tourism and hospitality sectors is paramount to protect employment and grow the economy to pre-Covid-19 levels. We recognise that the vaccine response can and should run in parallel with economic recovery.
"The alcohol industry has been and is still committed to play its part in increasing the uptake of Covid-19 vaccinations,” South African Liquor Brand Owners Association (Salba) CEO Kurt Moore says.
The Beer Association of South Africa (Basa) is also encouraging all South Africans who are eligible to get vaccinated.
"This is the only way to mitigate the impact of a fourth wave over the coming weeks," it says.
Wine industry association Vinpro, meanwhile, is appealing to citizens and businesses to "practice sound judgment and take up their responsibility to ensure the health, safety and livelihoods of people, by implementing the measures we already have in place".
“In the run-up to the festive season, and in light of a looming fourth Covid-19 wave, we call on government to take the lead in the country’s response to the Omicron variant at an international level, by intensifying vaccination efforts, ensuring the health system is properly prepared and enforcing strict adherence to Covid-19 protocols such as mask wearing, sanitising and social distancing,” Vinpro MD Rico Basson says.
Salba, Vinpro and Basa have also urged government not to implement any further bans on the sale of alcohol in the weeks and months ahead.
The wine industry, which provides job opportunities to close to 269 000 people and contributes R55-billion to the economy, is on a path to rebuild following significant setbacks brought on by Covid-19 over the past two years. “However, our success will be dependent on the extent to which government can create an enabling environment for growth and recovery, which includes sound policy decisions based on empirical data,” says Basson.
“It is extremely important that government consults thoroughly and is informed about the impact that any decisions regarding Covid-19 and possible restrictions may have on the respective sectors, their workforce and communities,” he adds.
Salba notes that the South African alcohol, tourism and hospitality industries still "desperately need" a successful December season to recover and survive through to the off-season period,” says Moore.
Salba points out that the previous alcohol bans in 2020 and 2021 caused a potential risk to more than 233 547 jobs, an estimated annualised loss to gross domestic product of about R60.7-billion, an estimated direct excise tax loss of R10.2-billion and an estimated direct tax revenue loss, excluding excise, of R34.2-billion.
The industry believes that any new restrictions on alcohol will permanently entrench the illicit trade in alcohol, which has flourished under previous bans and already comprises more than 20% of the market and has caused immeasurable suffering and job losses across the entire value chain, states Salba.
Basa CEO Patricia Pillay says thousands of businesses, many of which struggled to survive the year, rely on the festive season to recover, and the sector cannot afford another ban similar to the one enforced last December.
"The beer industry remains committed to implementing Covid-19 safety regulations over the holiday season, including ensuring proper sanitising, wearing of masks, social distancing and encouraging all South Africans to get vaccinated. In this regard, we welcome President Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcement that government has set up a task team to investigate making vaccinations compulsory for certain locations and activities.
"Basa members have also run a number of vaccination drives in partnership with provincial health departments over the past few months to increase the number of vaccinated citizens. Our members are also exploring the enforcement of mandatory rapid polymerase chain reaction testing at all their events over the festive season, in order to fight the spread of Covid-19," Pillay says.