Friday, October 23, 2020

Masupu: Botswana cannot drink her way into Covid-19

Thirsty elbow benders across the country who had hoped to congregate at some of the leading local liquor stores as the country prepares to ease restrictions on the national Covid 19 pandemic have had their hopes shuttered following a recommendation this week to continue with the ongoing alcohol sale ban.

The ban on alcohol sales formed an important component of the national lockdown and was meant to help control the coronavirus outbreak by limiting social gatherings.

But as part of an effort to restart the local economy, the government said this week that the sale of alcohol shall continue being prohibited. This is despite the fact that information passed to this publication indicate that a meeting between the Trade Ministry and Alcohol Industry association had ended in a mutual agreement that the sale of alcohol will form part of the economy reopening this coming week.

Sunday Standard has been tipped that, “Business Botswana presented a convincing position backed by the Botswana Alcohol Industry Association and British American Tobacco Botswana and Minister Peggy Serame did not have a problem with the recommendations, she was in support. The wish-list was submitted to the Covid-19 task team for finalisation, unfortunately it did not see the light of day.”

It has also emerged that the private sector mouthpiece – Business Botswana together with the Ministry of Investment Trade and Industry met last week and agreed on starting about 95 percent of all businesses licensed by the Ministry.

Amongst those included, was the re-opening of alcohol outlets for take-aways, no sit downs at bars, as well as restaurant sit downs.

It however later emerged that the gentlemen agreement between Trade ministry and the business sector did not get a thump up from the from the Presidential Covid 19 Task Team led by Dr Kereng Masupu.

By Wednesday as Parliament sat to amend the Emergency Powers Regulations it was clear that some businesses, except those selling liquor, will be allowed to start trade if they satisfy requirements made by the Director of Health Services. Meanwhile on the same day Trade Minister Peggy Serame temporarily excited elbow benders when her Twitter included liquor stores in the list of businesses that were to start operating on May 08. She later deleted and apologised for deleting the tweet saying that “I just realised that they contained some businesses that were still under discussion. I will share the final list as soon as it is finalised.”

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