Yes to mutts, no to butts: minister does u-turn on cigs

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Yes to mutts, no to butts: minister does u-turn on cigs

Dlamini-Zuma says smoking ban is ‘health related’, and warns new jogging rules aren’t an excuse to gallivant

Journalist
The government has changed its mind about cigarette sales from Friday.
OMG! The government has changed its mind about cigarette sales from Friday.
Image: 123RF/Volodymyr Melnyk

Cooperative governance minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma has unveiled key changes to biting lockdown restrictions as SA moves into level 4 at midnight.

Walking the dog and going for a run will now be allowed, but the sale of booze and cigarettes remain out of reach until restrictions are eased further.

A strict curfew will be in place, with no movement without a permit between 8pm and 5am.

The minister stressed that the lockdown – in place since March 27 – was not going to be lifted entirely, and that the eased regulations allowed for slightly more breathing room for those with cabin fever.

The lockdown had been imposed to stay the spread of the coronavirus, and has been touted as necessary to save lives, albeit at a grave cost to the SA economy.

“We still expect everyone to be at home, with a few new exceptions. You may only leave home to go to work, or to perform another function that is permissible on level 4. You can still go out to do your shopping for essential items,” the minister said.

The regulations had taken their final shape after a public consultation process during which there had been 70,000 submissions.

“One of the most popular submissions was on exercise. Over 22,000 people wanted exercise,” Dlamini-Zuma said.

Now South Africans could leave their homes to exercise, as long as they stayed within a 5km radius and only between 6am and 9am.

“We still need to keep to social distancing, and limit the time spent outside. That is what so many people were longing for.”

Regarding the curfew: “In the evenings, though more people will be going to work under level 4, this is not a licence to visit your relatives and friends. No. We want you to stay at home.”  

Commuters who move between provinces to work should have a permit, as should children who crossed provincial lines to return to school.

“There is no movement between provinces, and this is important because provinces are at different levels of the infection and we don’t want people moving between the two and increasing infection levels.”

But there was a loophole for those who had moved outside of their home province before the lockdown and had been unable to return.

“People decided to move from the major centres to go home. Some of them will need to come back for work if their companies are open. There will be a one-off allowance for people to move,” the minister said.

Contentiously, the sale of cigarettes and tobacco products would remain prohibited, despite threats of court challenges by major actors in the sector who stand to lose billions in revenue.

“We had consulted about allowing cigarettes and related products. In the public comments there were more than 2,000 people opposed it. We debated the matter and we decided to continue as we are.

“The reasons are health related. Besides the effect of tobacco itself, also the way tobacco is shared does not allow for social distancing and rather encourages the spread of the virus if people share cigarettes,” Dlamini-Zuma said.

She said that while restriction around alcohol was never envisaged under level 4, the benefit of outlawing its sale had been seen in hospitals and police cells.

“Our ICUs are not full of people who have been stabbed and shot, and not selling alcohol is assisting in the fight against Covid-19. It means the police can do what they need to do, the hospitals can look after the sick and not the emergencies that come from alcohol.”