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Big cheer as alcohol goes back on sale

Long queues formed outside shops selling alcohol across South Africa after restrictions on its sale, imposed two months ago as part of measures to fight COVID-19, were lifted today.

Social media posts showed people, who had braved the morning chill, cheering as buyers emerged with their bottles.

The alcohol ban was to allow police and hospitals to better focus on tackling the coronavirus, the authorities said.

Alcohol-fuelled violence is a huge problem in South Africa.

Doctors and police say the ban has had a dramatic impact, contributing to a sharp drop in casualty admissions.

But the country’s brewers and wine makers had complained that they were being driven out of business.

The government has also lost a fortune in tax revenue.

The authorities are now in the process of easing one of the toughest lockdowns in the world.

However, the planned reopening of schools has been delayed for a week.

President Cyril Ramaphosa said that from June 1 the sale of alcohol would resume, but only between 09:00 and 17:00 and not on Friday, Saturday or Sunday.

Also, the alcohol can only be drunk at home rather than where it was bought.

The main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA), had previously argued against banning alcohol sales, instead favouring a “smart lockdown model” that would allow people to buy alcohol for a few hours each day.

The lifting of the ban has, however, been criticised by Julius Malema, the leader of the radical opposition Economic Freedom Fighters party.

“Alcohol is destructive, alcohol destroys families, alcohol destroys lives, alcohol contributes to unprotected sex and spreading of diseases,” Malema said.

Studies in South Africa have found that alcohol was a major factor in crimes including murder, rape and assault.

The authorities had warned customers not to rush to the shops but rather stagger their purchases throughout the week to avoid crowds and to reduce the risk of infection.

On Twitter, “Tops”, the name of a liquor store, and “level three” are the top trending topics in South Africa, with people sharing pictures of celebrating – some singing – the return of alcohol sales.

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