Mbabane: Just at 12: 43 pm, Monday, October 12, 2020, sanity has prevailed at the Hospital Hill as the Prime Minister Ambrose Mandvulo announced the lifting of the alcohol ban with effect from October 26, 2020.
The announcement means that the 13 weeks wait for both alcohol imbibers and traders will come to an end on the eve of the said date.
Making the announcement the premier said government has since reviewed the ban, working in collaboration with health experts, and has taken the decision to lift the ban with effect from October 26, 2020.
He said, as government they acknowledge the concerns raised by the liquor industry on the reopening of the sale of liquor in the Kingdom, thus they sympathize with the traders for the inconvenience caused over the past months.
He highlighted that lifting the ban was a tough decision to be undertaken by Cabinet considering the health advice which sought to minimize the spread of the virus and to save lives.
Unpacking the conditions of sale the premier said manufacturers of alcohol shall operate as per their normal operating hours while distributors, wholesalers and retailers shall operate on Mondays to Fridays from 9am to 5pm.
He said there shall be no liquor sale on weekends, and liquor shall be sold for home use only.
“Drinking in public places, at picnics and the hosting of house parties will not be allowed while hotel residents are to consume liquor in their rooms,” said the PM.
“Liquor will only be served with meals in restaurants, in glasses or tumblers while liquor sharing is prohibited,” stated the PM. He said that liquor businesses shall provide screening for all workers and clients when entering their premises, adding that it is the responsibility of liquor businesses to enforce COVID19 guidelines during the lifting of the ban.
Worth noting is that liquor sale and distribution was banned since the initial lockdown in March 2020. Although it was opened in June but for a short period as there was a surge in the cases of COVID-19, resulting in government taking a decision to ban the sale and distribution of alcohol, linking it as one of the causes of the surge in COVID-19 cases.
The alcohol ban has been a thorn in the flesh for both imbibers and alcohol traders across the country as the logic around its ban could not be linked with the spread of the COVID-19 virus. The ban risked the livelihood of about 14 000 people who were employed by the industry, which tittered at the brink of collapse due to job losses.
Recently, the minister of finance in responding to questions during a breakfast meeting with editors said alcohol contributes about 400 million Emalangeni annually to the economy. Since the industry has been closed for about 6 months government might have approximately lost half of that money, although the minister of finance has promised to bring a comprehensive report on what government has lost over the period.