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Govt says U-turn on sale of cigarettes done for health reasons

Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma on Wednesday evening said that smoking posed more risk in the spread of COVID-19.

Cooperative Governance Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. Picture: @NationalCoGTA/Twitter

JOHANNESBURG - Government has done an about-turn on cigarettes sales, deciding to uphold the ban on the sale of cigarettes when Level 4 restrictions kick in on Friday.

Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma on Wednesday evening said that the National Command Council discussed the issue and decided not to allow the sale of cigarettes and other tobacco products.

Last week, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that sales would be allowed from next month, but Dlamini-Zuma said they had decided against this for health reasons.

The minister said smoking posed more risk in the spread of COVID-19.

“Government took that into consideration and debated the merits and looked at it and decided that we must continue as we are when it comes to cigarettes and tobacco products and related, that we should not open up the sale,” she said.

The sale of alcohol also remains prohibited during this time and regulations governing funerals still stand. However, more items would be available for sale, including winter clothing as the country approaches winter.

EXPERTS WELCOME TOBACCO BAN

Meanwhile, many experts welcomed cigarettes being excluded from the list of items people could buy on Level 4 lockdown.

Dr Sharon Nyatsanza, of the National Council against Smoking, said the implementation of a long-term tobacco and alcohol control measure would benefit society.

“The bigger fight is to really to reduce tobacco use in the long-term. We are already calling for the government to pass the Tobacco Bill because it’s very critical in reducing tobacco use. Tobacco affects the lungs and cardiovascular system, but our bigger call is for people to stop smoking,” Nyatsanza said.

Dr Catherine Egbe from the South African Medical Research Council echoed the same sentiments, saying tobacco remained a major health risk.

“We want to avoid a situation where more people go from having mild to moderate symptoms to having severe and critical symptoms. And one of the ways to prevent that is to make sure that your respiratory tract is enough to fight off the virus,” Egbe said.

Some political parties agreed, the ANC Women’s League and the EFF also called for the health of citizens to be prioritised.

ONCE-OFF INTER-PROVINCIAL TRAVEL

At the same time, Dlamini-Zuma said under level 4 regulations people would be allowed to travel between provinces on a once-off basis.

People would also be allowed to exercise within a 5-kilometre radius of their homes between 6am and 9am.

“The movement of people across the borders is only allowed under exceptional circumstances, such as South Africans returning home, and they will be subjected to a 14-day quarantine. Some of them will be coming from high-risk countries, so it is important for them to be quarantined,” Dlamini-Zuma said.

The minister said restaurants would be allowed to open, but only to deliver food. She warned against breaking the rules to prevent the country from going back to a Level 5 lockdown.

WATCH: COVID-19 Situation Desk - 29 April 2020 PM

For official information about COVID-19 from the Department of Health, please click here.