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Mkhize: SA not ready to lift ban on sales of tobacco, alcohol yet

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said that while pressure on hospitals had been reduced and the recovery rate was now above 70%, more work still needed to be done before alcohol and cigarette sales were allowed again.

Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize visits the Nasrec quarantine and isolation centre on 20 July. Picture: Kayleen Morgan/EWN

DURBAN - Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said that the country was not ready to lift the ban on the sale of alcohol and cigarettes.

Mkhize is touring KwaZulu-Natal health facilities ahead of an expected surge in COVID-19 infections.

He said that while pressure on hospitals had been reduced and the recovery rate was now above 70%, more work still needed to be done before alcohol and cigarette sales were allowed again.

Business Leadership South Africa and the South African Medical Research Council were among various organisations that have called for the ban on alcohol and cigarette sales to be lifted, saying that the ban had served its purpose.

However, Health Minister Mkhize disagreed.

"Our position is very simple. When we see that the numbers are improving and the need and pressure for beds is not so threatening to the lives of our people, we'll reconsider this. We haven't come to that point yet."

He said that government was willing to defend its position in court because it was based on legitimate concerns.

"There are real reasons why we actually support the suspension of alcohol."

At the same time, Mkhize has praised KwaZulu-Natal authorities for their preparation ahead of the COVID-19 surge, saying he was confident they would be able to manage a possible increase in infections.

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