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Dlamini-Zuma has a duty to prevent spread of COVID-19 & save lives, court told

Advocate Karrisha Pillay, representing Co-operative Governance Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, on Thursday quoted a number of studies and research done that showed smokers were at higher risk of contracting severe respiratory diseases.

FILE: Cooperative Governance Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma at a briefing on the coronavirus pandemic in Pretoria on 28 May 2020. Picture: Supplied.

CAPE TOWN - Co-operative Governance Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma’s lawyer on Thursday argued before the Western Cape High Court that there was a significant link between smoking and COVID-19.

Advocate Karrisha Pillay quoted a number of studies and research done that showed smokers were at higher risk of contracting severe respiratory diseases.

She said Dlamini-Zuma had a duty to prevent the spread of the disease and to save lives.

“And for these reasons, she makes the point that it is critical to take steps to reduce the burden on an already constrained healthcare system in South Africa,” she said.

Pillay also referred to research done by the World Health Organisation (WHO) on COVID-19 and smoking that the minister had relied on.

“Tobacco smoking alone is a risk factor for many respiratory infections and increases the severity of respiratory diseases. Smokers are more likely to develop severe disease with COVID-19,” Pillay said.

Thursday was day two of British American Tobacco South Africa’s (Batsa) legal tussle at the High Court with the government to unban the sale of tobacco products.

On Wednesday, the Batsa argued why the ban should be lifted.

Dlamini-Zuma has previously said the ban was motivated by a number of ICU beds that could be freed up for COVID-19 patients should tobacco be banned.

It is the second case to be brought against the government on the matter.

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) agreed to hear the Fair Trade Independent Tobacco Association (Fita)’s a petition to appeal the ban on cigarette sales urgently.

Fita approached the court last week to appeal the High Court decision to dismiss its challenge against government’s cigarette ban.

‘AN UNFORTUNATE REALITY’

Meanwhile, Dlamini-Zuma’s legal team did not contest the evidence of an illicit cigarette market, saying it was “an unfortunate reality” in South Africa.

Advocate Andrew Breitenbach, representing the state, said that when the minister made the decision to ban the sale of tobacco products, the objective was not to stop each and every smoker from quitting but to reduce pressure on health services.

“This burden may be alleviated by a reasonable reduction in the number of smokers on the constrained number of facilities that we have, and the effects of stopping smoking,” Breitenbach said.

Breitenbach said that Dlamini-Zuma took the decision despite knowing there would be negative consequences.

“The minister is realistic. She took this decision well knowing, for instance, there is a well-established criminal underworld involved in illicit tobacco dealing in South Africa,” he said.

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