KZN premier warns illegal booze traders as Covid-19 cases climb

Briefing by the provincial coronavirus command council in KwaZulu-Natal.
Briefing by the provincial coronavirus command council in KwaZulu-Natal.
Image: Supplied

The KwaZulu-Natal government has issued a stern warning to “take it or leave it” liquor merchants and illicit traders who continue to sell alcohol despite the lockdown ban on sales.

“We also want to issue a warning to both established liquor outlets as well as individuals who are selling liquor illegally, the so-called 'take it or leave it' merchants, that we will come for them, because they are enemies of our progress,” said premier Sihle Zikalala.

The premier, speaking on Sunday, described those who sold alcohol despite the ban as “unscrupulous enemies of people’s good health”.

He called on South Africans to isolate them by not supporting their trade and to report them anonymously, by contacting the police.

Zikalala told a media briefing that since the alcohol ban and adjusted curfew during  lockdown level three, the provincial government had activated all role players within the provincial joint operational and crime intelligence structures to ensure that there was compliance with the Disaster Management Act.

Zikalala lauded citizens of the province for largely complying with the regulations but noted there were still pockets of people who remained non-compliant.

He said this had led to 729 arrests across the province between December 29 and January 1.

  • At least 246 of these people were arrested for failing to confine themselves to their residences during the curfew hours.
  • And 66 people were arrested for transporting, selling or consuming alcohol in a public space; and
  • 392 were arrested for not wearing a face mask in public spaces.

“Furthermore, many others have been arrested for other contraventions of the disaster management regulations.

“The message from security forces is clear, there will be no mercy for those who continue to flout the disaster management regulations, thereby putting other citizens at risk,” said Zikalala.

This included the wearing of masks, failing to comply with social distancing and hosting superspreader events.

Zikalala was concerned about daily Covid-19 infections surpassing 5,000 cases in the province. On December 30, 5,846 new infections and 116 deaths were recorded.

It was the first time the province had exceeded the 5,000 mark.

On December 31 there was a slight improvement with 5,311 new infections but deaths increased to 134.

On January 1, new infections stood at 4,974 and there were 21 deaths. On January 2 there were 4,714 new infections and 85 deaths.

Health MEC Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu said the province was yet to reach its peak.

“Our scientists are working on providing us with answers on when we will see the peak. From what we have been told, we are not close to a peak. It is a worry that we have not reached a peak despite clocking over 5,000 cases a day,” she said.

Six districts were identified as hotspots: eThekwini, uMgungundlovu, Ugu, Harry Gwala, King Cetshwayo, and iLembe.

Zikalala said the province had witnessed an increase in family clusters, indicating that infected family members were not complying with self-quarantine and self-isolation rules.

While infections are not showing signs of a significant decrease, the provincial government has repurposed 540 beds in eThekwini, iLembe and Harry Gwala. Field hospitals have been commissioned, making available 954 more beds and the province has also engaged private facilities (hotels and lodges) for extra beds.

“Of the total available Covid-19 dedicated isolation beds (1,925), 3% were vacant. Of the total ICU beds (127) allocated in the public sector, 50% were occupied, as of January 2.

“There are currently 4,340 patients admitted in both private and public [facilities], of those admitted, 472 patients (11%) required intensive care services. Private hospitals had more patients than public facilities.”

Zikalala once again pleaded for behavioural change so the province could beat the pandemic and save lives.

“We all need to realise that we are in a difficult time, and behave like people who are in mourning. Let us please use the only tools that we have against this virus,” he added.

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