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Liquor traders urged to follow Covid-19 laws

Bereng Mpaki

THE liquor industry has appealed to its members to abide by the Covid-19 regulations while it engages the government for an alternative solution to help combat the virus.

The government published new Public Health (Covid-19) (Risk Determination and Mitigation Framework) Regulations on 20 July 2020, which among other things, have imposed a total ban on the sale of alcohol. The move is meant to control the escalating Covid-19 infections in the country.

Official statistics from the Ministry of Health indicate that as of 23 July there were 419 Covid-19 infections and nine deaths in Lesotho.

The government initially imposed a ban on alcohol sales from 30 March to 19 May 2020. The ban was only lifted after the country started relaxing lockdown regulations meant to combat the spread of Covid-19.

However, Lesotho, which was the last African country to record cases of Covid-19, has recently recorded a surge in cases forcing the government to reinstate the ban.

During the first ban, many liquor traders lamented that they were incurring serious losses. This led to many operators selling alcohol illegally. Even after the latest regulations, many operators have continued disregarding the regulations.

However, the liquor industry leaders, which include the Lesotho Liquor and Restaurants Owners Association (LLROA); Independent Basotho Off Sales Association (IBOSA) and Maluti Mountain Brewery (MMB) have appealed to traders to comply with the law.

In a joint statement on Thursday, they said they were engaging the government and the National Covid-19 Security (NACOSEC) for alternative solutions in fighting Covid-19. They opine that shutting down the industry completely would be detrimental to the country’s economy.

“The liquor industry is engaging the government and NACOSEC to find solutions that will support the current government’s strategy as well as minimising the economic impact on the liquor industry,” reads the joint statement reads.

“The industry has a wide and deep value chain and contributes an estimated three percent to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) and employs over 25 000 people. Shutting it down will take away the much-needed revenue.”

The industry appealed to traders to abide by the latest Covid-19 regulations.

“It has also come to our attention that despite the standing government gazette issued on 20 July 2020, there are bars and off sales that are still operating.

“We appeal to every liquor business that is still operating to comply with the law and close operations.

“The collective presence of the industry on this call is a firm statement of intent that as an industry, we want to be a part of the solution to fight the pandemic, while re-igniting the economy.”

Other restrictions under the new regulations include the number of people attending weddings, which has been reduced to just the bride, groom, their two witnesses and the marriage officer.

Funerals should be outdoors for private family members with a service of not more than 10 people; 10 men at the graveyard to help with burial, and should not take more than two hours and be completed by 10am.

No people are allowed to pay respects at the home of the deceased, and no hosting of daily prayer sessions will be allowed. Night vigils have also been banned along with the usual Friday night prayer sessions and memorial services.

Only five people are permitted to collect a body from the mortuary while tools cannot be shared during burial. Preparation and serving of food at funerals have also been banned.

Public gatherings will be limited to 30 people for a maximum of two hours. Gatherings will only be allowed for Covid-19 awareness while public recreational areas (parks, swimming pools, gyms) will remain closed.

Factories will maintain normal working hours with 50 percent staff complements in day and night shifts with two-hour breaks.

It is mandatory for mining and large construction projects to test for Covid-19 at the beginning of every shift cycle while on-site accommodation must be provided for staff.

Accommodation facilities like lodges and hotels are allowed to have 100 percent occupancy but must register the identification details and contacts of clients. The clients will be served food in their rooms while buffets, communal eating, public/private bars, visitors and conferences and workshops are banned.

Restaurants and fast food outlets will only serve takeaways only and must register the identities of their clients.

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