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As One Country Reopens, People Buy Booze for First Time in 2 Months

As South Africa eases lockdown, many head to the liquor store instead of to work
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 1, 2020 9:55 AM CDT

(Newser) – Many South Africans spent their Monday morning lining up outside liquor stores, reports the AP, as alcohol sales were allowed again after a two-month ban because of the coronavirus outbreak. But while South Africa—with the continent's most developed economy and the highest number of confirmed cases of COVID-19—relaxed its strict lockdown, the reopening of most school classes was delayed and there was debate about how churches could safely resume services. South Africa has reported over 32,000 COVID-19 cases and more than 600 people have died. The government warns that the number of infections will continue to increase and that the peak isn't expected until August or September. Still, the relaxation of the alcohol ban came as a relief to many, who chose restocking their liquor cabinets instead of going straight to work on the day much of the country's economy also reopened.

In the poor township of Macassar, near Cape Town, people left home at 4:30am to get in line at liquor stores. Stores were to open at 9am for the first time since March 26. Some walked with plastic crates to carry the beer and wine they planned to buy. In nearby Somerset West, socially distanced lines weaved out of shops, onto sidewalks, and into parking lots. Cheers rose in a Johannesburg supermarket when screens were removed from wine racks to allow sales to begin. "It's been a long two months," said Tony van Schalkwyk, who got to one shop an hour before it was due to open. He said he hoped to get beer, white wine, red wine, and brandy—what he referred to as "just basics." Shelves of popular brands were emptied in two hours at one liquor shop in an affluent suburb of Johannesburg, with only the most expensive products left unsold. Some people went to more than one store to restock.

(Read more coronavirus stories.)

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