It’s official – retail stores are no longer permitted to sell cooked hot food during the ongoing nationwide lockdown, which is set to end at the end of April.
Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma issued the formal ban in a gazette notice published on Monday.
She amended the lockdown regulations to allow the sale of any food products “but excluding cooked hot food.”
Confusion about regulations
Major retail outlets had been selling hot cooked food, such as rotisserie chicken, pies and bread baked in-store, during the lockdown.
However, Trade and Industry Minister Ebrahim Patel said at a media briefing on Thursday last week that this should not have happened.
“We would like to clarify the situation – takeaways and restaurants were closed during the initial announcement of the beginning of the lockdown. We also communicated to the supermarkets that their hot-food sections need to be closed,” he said.
This sparked some confusion among legal experts. Woolworths’ attorneys Webber Wentzel subsequently provided a legal opinion stating that the regulations did not prohibit such sales at the time.
Woolworths complies despite legal opinion
Nevertheless, Woolworths announced on Friday that it would close its hot food counters despite the legal opinion.
Its spokesperson told News24, “At the ministerial press briefing that took place on 16 April, it was communicated that retailers are not permitted to trade the hot food counters in their stores.
“While this has not yet been formally promulgated in the regulations, and we are seeking clarity on the way forward, we took the decision to close all hot food counters with immediate effect to adhere to the communication by [Patel].”
The Shoprite Group, which includes Checkers, also said it would “correct any misinterpretation” of the regulations in its stores.
On Saturday, the President’s Coordinating Council, which is chaired by President Cyril Ramaphosa, agreed to adopt a “risk-adjusted approach” with regard to easing the regulations.
It said, “Such approach would entail the gradual easing of regulations in various sectors, guided by available evidence which supports the ongoing containment of the virus, until the economy is operating once more on full capacity.”