THE government has relaxed restrictions for liquor traders allowing them to operate for five days weekly from the previous two days.
However, operators say the relaxation is not enough as 50 percent of businesses are facing collapse due to the Coronavirus (Covid-19) restrictions.
In the latest Public Health (Covid-19) regulations 2020 gazette published on 10 June 2020; liquor traders have been allowed to operate from Monday to Friday from 8am to 5pm.
In the previous regime of regulations, bars were only allowed to operate on Mondays and Thursdays from 8am to 6pm.
All other businesses; apart from liquor traders, public transport (6am-9pm), shearing sheds (7am to 5pm) and those that are permitted to operate for 24 hours daily, will now be allowed to open from 8am to 8pm daily.
Businesses that are permitted to operate for 24 hours daily include pharmacies and chemists; fuel dealers, funeral parlours, food and medicine manufacturers; international air and freight transport and logistics; and manufacturing, construction and mining industries.
Nightclubs, public parks and swimming pools; casinos; youth hostels and initiation schools remain closed.
The 10 June regulations replace the gazette that was published on 20 May.
“All premises selling liquor shall operate only from Monday to Friday and shall only offer take-aways,” part of the new regulations read.
“A person shall be allowed to purchase a maximum quantity of one case per person for a beverage which contains 10 percent alcohol or less; three litres per person for beverages which contain 10 percent to 20 percent; or one and half litres per person for beverages which contain 20 percent alcohol or above. A person is prohibited from consuming liquor in a public place.”
The new regulations also allow schools to open for external classes as well as full time teaching for tertiary and technical institutions.
The external classes allowed to resume include grade seven; junior certificate; grade 11; Lesotho General Certificate for Secondary Education (LGCSE); International General Certificate for Secondary Education (IGCSE); advanced Subsidiary (AS); A level and International Baccalaureate IB learners.
“An owner, principal or head of a school or learning institute opened under this regulation shall ensure that all safety measures in respect of WHO hygiene and safety measures, and the limitation of exposure of persons to COVID-19 are adhered to, and that a teacher, lecturer, leaner or student wears a face mask.”
However, liquor traders say the relaxation is not enough as they have lost lots of business since the beginning of the lockdown on 30 March 2020. Liqour traders were only allowed to start operating on 19 May 2020 on Mondays and Thursdays.
Motseki Nkeane, the president of Lesotho Liqour and Restaurants Owners Association (LLROA), said they would want to revert to their normal working hours otherwise half of the businesses close shop.
“The increase in operating days is not enough. We want to operate seven days per week.
“The 5pm closing time is not ideal for us because that is the time when many people knock off from work hence, they would not have any time to make purchases after work.”
He said liquor trading thrives during weekends and restricting trade to weekdays is not good enough. In fact, he estimates that at least 50 percent of liquor businesses will collapse if the restrictions are not removed immediately.
“We have met with the minister and commended him for relaxing the regulations on liquor traders but we have also told him that there is still room for improvement on the regulations.
“Some businesses have already closed for good as owners have used up their stocks. Others are facing eviction from their premises due to inability to pay rent,” Mr Nkeane said.