The South African wine industry shares the National Coronavirus Command Council’s (NCCC) concern about an increase in Covid-19 infections, but welcomes a risk-based approach to introducing measures aimed at reducing the number of active cases during the festive season.
The NCCC announced in a statement this morning that the country will remain on Covid-19 alert level 1, as hospitalisation and mortality figures remain low despite a surge in infections of the Omicron variant.
“We are relieved that the South African Government has not imposed more stringent national restrictions that would have had a serious effect on wine cellars, wine tourism destinations and the thousands of families that depend on the industry for their livelihoods, especially during the festive season,” says Vinpro MD Rico Basson. “It is evident from this that Government is heeding the industry’s ongoing call for risk- and fact-based decision-making regarding liquor trade restrictions.”
Wineries are highly dependent on wine tourism for their survival, especially during the summer months. Although the UK has reopened its borders to South Africa, many cellars have lost a large part of their international tourism market virtually overnight due to international travel restrictions, which has had significant financial implications. “Domestic tourism in particular is an important lifeline for these businesses, and we are therefore relieved that they can still trade at this time, with all the necessary safety measures in place.”
Basson emphasises that Government should not impose restrictions on liquor trade across all provinces as a means to increase hospital capacity. “Government must continue to take the lead in the country’s response to the latest wave of infections by ensuring that the health system is prepared, accelerate the vaccination roll-out and strictly enforce Covid-19 protocol legislation,” he says.
He also appeals to every citizen and business to continuously adhere to the precautionary measures and to strictly enforce the various safety protocols at all levels of the industry. “We now have the opportunity to show that we can stand together against Covid-19 to keep our industry open.”