Alcohol has been banned at all sporting events – even though spectators aren’t allowed yet
- New coronavirus rules for sport in South Africa explicitly allows for international matches, as long as the other country is doing reasonably well in terms of infections.
- But booze has also been explicitly banned, at all sporting events – even though spectators are not yet allowed.
- The alcohol industry fears that limitations on some kinds of social drinking could remain in place, or be strengthened, even if no outright prohibition returns during the third wave.
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South Africa will definitely be open to hosting foreign sporting teams, under coronavirus rules updated on Friday – but they won't be able to have champagne at the stadium if they win.
Sport and culture minister Nathi Mthethwa amended directions on Covid-19 prevention for areas under his portfolio, including gyms and libraries, by publication in the Government Gazette, in a wide-ranging but mostly minor set of changes to rules that limit crowds and opening hours.
For matches, the rules remain unequivocal: teams are limited to the "required number of players", and outside of their support staff and match officials, only specific outsiders are allowed into venues: emergency medical teams, broadcast crews, journalists, and "necessary employees" of the stadium.
"[N]o spectators are allowed at the venue of the sports match," the rules say, to avoid any doubt.
A new paragraph in the directions explicitly allows for foreign teams to be hosted, saying that "international sport events involving countries with a low or medium Covid-19 infection and transmission rate are allowed".
Various countries, including South Africa, have sought to enable high-profile sports teams to travel for matches again.
See also | SA’s last thousand doses of J&J Sisonke vaccine will go to rugby and Olympic stars this week
An update to a different section of the rules may bode ill for an alcohol industry, which fears new and longer-lasting restrictions on the social consumption of alcohol, whether or not South Africa reimposes a sales prohibition during the third wave.
"No consumption of alcohols [sic] at all sporting events including parks," reads an addition to "control measures" imposed on sporting events.
With sporting teams already in close contact where necessary – and separated when not – that rule appears to foreshadow what will happen once spectators are allowed back into their seats.
The government position on alcohol has, for some time, been that booze should be avoided in crowded settings because the lowering of inhibitions that come with consumption means rules on social distancing and wearing masks will not be observed.
(Compiled by Phillip de Wet)
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