South Africa to start easing lockdown restrictions but alcohol and cigarette ban remains in place

South Africa will start easing some of its coronavirus restrictions after five weeks of lockdown the government announced. Some businesses will be allowed to reopen, restaurants can deliver food and families will be allowed to leave home to exercise. However, the government will deploy more troops on the streets and impose an overnight curfew. The sale of alcohol and cigarettes will remain banned.

Some schools will also reopen – but with strict limits likely on class sizes.

President Ramaphosa said a month-long lockdown has been working, and has slowed the pandemic’s progress. However, people need to eat, and to earn a living.

South Africa has imposed some of the continent's most stringent measures to contain the pandemic.

Mr Ramaphosa last week, warned of the danger of a new surge of infections. There are also concerns about new spikes in several cities, and warnings that some hospitals are nowhere near ready.

Just over 100 people are confirmed to have died from Covid-19 but the lockdown has had a devastating effect on the economy. Cigarette makers to sue government over sales ban

Meanwhile, South Africa’s Fair Trade Independent Tobacco Association (FITA), threatened to sue the government after it stated that it will not lift the sales ban on cigarettes.

In a statement released by the Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, it said that Pretoria would keep the cigarettes and alcohol ban despite the easing of lockdown measures this week because smoking posed a great risk in the spread of coronavirus.

Responding to the announcement, a senior FITA official Sinenhlanhla Mnguni said the association’s legal advisers would be challenging the ban in court.

On Wednesday, the government announced more than 2,000 people signed a petition calling on the government not to lift the ban on tobacco products. The Fair Trade Independent Tobacco Association also said that more than 270,000 South Africans signed a petition opposing the ban.

The petition says withdrawing from nicotine can have serious negative side-effects like depression, stress and anxiety. There’s an argument that lifting the ban would stimulate the economy and generate money for the state through taxation on cigarette sales. It is estimated that the state is losing on average around $55m (£43m) a month in tax revenue during the ban on selling of tobacco products. South Africans were given only a few days' notice to stock up when the government announced the lockdown last month - which also stopped the sale of alcohol.