The threat of a deadly virus to South Africa’s constrained health sector caused a swift reaction from the government and civil society.
By the end of March 2020, restaurant tables were left barren and hotel rooms were vacated, while the airspace above South Africa was vacated. Even before South Africa had reported its first death from the virus, the air was thick with dread. By the time the first death related to COVID-19 was recorded on 27 March, most diners had cancelled their dinner reservations and travel plans. When the Presidency declared a State of Disaster on 22 March, which imposed a national lockdown from 26 March until the end of April there were wide-ranging implications for the wine industry in particular.
One of the most dreaded implications of a State of Disaster in the industry was the possibility that the 2020 harvest would not be completed. Regulation No. 398 of the Disaster Management Act of 2002 deems agriculture an essential sector, largely for food security. However, the sale, dispensation and transportation of alcohol was limited under lockdown conditions.
On 26 March, a Government Gazette stated in section p.5 (6) (a) (e) that certain cellar and harvest work was considered an essential service. In a responsible manner, during the lockdown period, certain cellar and harvest work was allowed to continue in order to prevent the wastage of agricultural crops.
The reaction to COVID-19 was swift and reflected the wine industry’s ability to adapt to market conditions. Hopefully, this will mean that wine production won’t be hindered when lockdown conditions are lifted and that availability on shelves won’t be drastically affected.