SA not yet at ‘point’ to lift booze, tobacco sales ban – Mkhize

Health minister Zweli Mkhize. Picture: Jacques Nelles

The minister says once Covid-19 numbers start improving and that the availability of hospital beds does not pose a threat to lives, the two bans will be reconsidered.

Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize has said that the country is not yet at a point where it is ready to lift the bans on the sale of tobacco products and alcohol.

Mkhize was on Thursday responding to a question by an EWN reporter during his two-day visit to KwaZulu-Natal to inspect the province’s state of readiness.

The minister said during the visit to one of the hospitals, he had asked a doctor about the impact of the ban on the sale of alcohol who responded to him by saying it had been positive because there had been a reduction in the number of alcohol-induced trauma cases being admitted, which made it easier to work.

“I find this everywhere we go,” Mkhize added.

“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 then, of course, we will reconsider this, we haven’t come to that point yet,” he said.

The minister said publicly answering on the question on the ban on tobacco products posed a difficulty as the matter is “sub judice”.

British American Tobacco South Africa’s (Batsa’s) legal challenge to the ban on the sale of tobacco products entered its second day in the Western Cape High Court on Thursday.

READ MORE: Dlamini-Zuma doesn’t want to stop smoking completely, court hears

“But as far as we are concerned, there are real reasons why we actually support the suspension of alcohol,” with regards to the issue of hospital beds being taken up.

Mkhize said the priority now should be on saving lives and ensuring that hospitals have the capacity to do so.

(Compiled by Makhosandile Zulu)

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