Businesses pushed for the ban on liquor and cigarette sales to be lifted
For the first time in weeks, South Africans are allowed to buy alcohol and cigarettes as the government relaxes lockdown restrictions introduced to curb the spread of coronavirus.
Long queues of eager customers formed outside shops just hours after the new rules came into effect.
The government said it had eased the lockdown because South Africa was seeing a decline in coronavirus cases.
More than 500,000 infections and 11,000 deaths related to Covid-19 have been reported in the country.
South Africa has the most effective coronavirus testing system in Africa.
Tobacco and alcohol firms opposed the ban on the sale of liquor and cigarettes, saying it was having a negative impact on business.
Medical experts, however, supported the ban, saying it was vital that people led healthy lives while helping to ease the pressure on health services.
Some experts say smokers can increase the risk of spreading the virus because they project droplets – and potentially Covid-19 if infected – when they exhale smoke.
Last week, Police Minister Bheki Cele said most types of crimes went down between April and June – including sexual assault and arson – because of the lockdown.
Violent and property-related crimes went down by 29%, he said.
This is the second time this year that South Africa has lifted its ban on alcohol – after briefly doing the same in July.
Under the new “level two” guidance, people are also allowed to travel between provinces, while visits to family and friends are permitted in small groups of up to 10 people.
Parks and beaches have also reopened and sporting events can go ahead without spectators.
Wearing face masks in public remains mandatory.
Alcohol sales are only permitted between 09:00 and 17:00 on Mondays to Thursdays, and South Africans are subject to a nightly curfew from 22:00 to 04:00.
‘Coronavirus can’t stop Corona’
Many South Africans have told local media of their relief – including one overjoyed woman who kissed her pack of cigarettes, according to TimesLive.
On Twitter, Petri van Zyl joked that fumes from “happy smokers” were visible from space:
“Not even coronavirus can stop sales of Corona [beer],” remarked Moe Chanda on Twitter, while Thabiso Buthelezi reminded people to “drink responsibly” and keep wearing masks and washing their hands.