The Department of Health in the Eastern Cape says the possible unbanning of the sale of tobacco products could have disastrous consequences for the province’s fight to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

An application by the Fair Trade Independent Tobacco Association contesting the legality of the regulations banning cigarette sales will be heard in the High Court in Pretoria next week.

The Eastern Cape has seen a rapid increase in the number of coronavirus infections and deaths in the past week with Health Minister Zweli Mkhize on Friday warning that the province was following the same trajectory as the Western Cape.

The head of the Eastern Cape’s Health Department, Dr. Thobile Mbengashe says the unbanning of tobacco sales could reverse the gains they’ve made in the fight against the virus.

“The banning of tobacco in restaurants, many people have stopped smoking. Our worry is that winter is coming. Flu is gonna come and tobacco is going to irritate chests. Your chest and COVID-19 on top of that can make things worse than they are. It’s going to crowd the system,” says Mbengashe.

In the video below, British American Tabacco South Africa takes government to court: