- Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize says South Africa isn't ready to relax the ban on liquor and tobacco
- The minister is currently touring KwaZulu-Natal health facilities ahead of an anticipated spike in Covid-19 cases
- Mkhize is adamant that the nation isn't at the point where it can risk increasing pressure on hospitals by lifting the ban
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Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize insists that South Africa is not ready to lift the restrictions banning the sale of alcohol and tobacco products.
Speaking during his tour of KwaZulu-Natal health facilities ahead of the expected spike in Covid-19 infections the minister insists is on its way, Mkhize voiced his disapproval.
The minister says that, despite reduced pressure on hospitals and a high recovery rate, there is still a long journey to the point where the government can consider relaxing the ban:
"Our position is very simple. When we see that the numbers are improving and the need and pressure for beds is not so threatening to the lives of our people, we'll reconsider this. We haven't come to that point yet."
READ ALSO: Tobacco ban: Court hears state aimed to save lives, limit virus
Mkhize says that the government is willing to meet legal challenges surrounding the ban head-on because it is based on valid reasons.
KwaZulu-Natal health officials were praised for a job well done in relation to preparations ahead of the expected wave of cases, with the minister saying he is confident they will be able to cope when the time comes.
Earlier, Briefly.co.za reported that the government's lawyers in British American Tobacco SA's legal challenge over the controversial ban had stuck to their argument that the ban had been implemented to save lives.
The state's legal team had claimed smokers are more at risk of experiencing severe Covid-19 symptoms. This would require additional ICU beds and ventilators to treat should the ban be lifted.
BATSA, on the other hand, claims that the government had not managed to secure the medical evidence needed to back up this allegation.
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