This week’s 10 must-read Covid-19 articles
As SA prepares to move into level 3 of Covid-19 lockdown, this is what happened
1. “At the best of times SA is not an easy place to govern, but there are so many easy fixes if we could only learn to value the expertise and commitment we have,” writes former Business Day editor Peter Bruce.
2. Amid widespread criticism against the government’s policies, described as inconsistent and confusing at times, police minister Bheki Cele drew significant ire after announcing that smokers who travel with cigarettes would have to produce proof of purchase.
3. After announcing that the sale of tobacco products would remain prohibited under level 3 of lockdown, co-operative governance and traditional affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said she believes it will result in a “sizeable number” of South Africans quitting the habit.
4. The contentious ban has, meanwhile, resulted in allegations against Dlamini-Zuma. While the fiscus is losing billions of rand in excise taxes, the illicit cigarette trade is said to be flourish due to the demand. The minister insisted, however, that she was not an “associate” of alleged tobacco smuggler Adriano Mazzotti, despite having been photographed with him.
5. While BAT SA announced on Friday it was heading to court to challenge the tobacco ban, Dlamini-Zuma already had to defend the regulation in court documents earlier in the week. As accountant and academic Khaya Sithole writes, “The upcoming court case will hopefully give insights into the government’s reasoning”.
6. Despite criticism and questions over the logic of the government’s decision to allow alcohol sales under level 3 lockdown, a number of South Africans expressed relief at a chance to replenish their liquor cabinets. The ban has already resulted in over 100,000 job losses.
7. Apart from punishing citizens for smoking, exercising in public at the wrong time or trying to buy shorts in store instead of online, for a moment it appeared that the government also wanted to clamp down on free speech, judging by its response to criticism by the CEO of the SA Medical Research Council. Or, as FM editor Rob Rose put it, “the issue has spiralled, touching on just how intolerant politicians are of public criticism around their Covid-19 strategy”.
8. Another industry suffering under the lockdown regulations is aviation. But unlike tobacco, entertainment and personal care, the government will allow limited air travel during level 3.
9. However, reopening an airline is not the same as ripping the red tape from a tobacco counter. Low-cost carrier FlySafair said “it may be even more costly to resume operations flying under restrictions, and with constrained demand”.
10. And as the country prepares to ease the lockdown restrictions, Business Day editor at large Carol Paton writes that SA will need to steel itself for what is coming.