South Africa’s police minister has warned restaurants not to hide alcohol in teapots to try and get around a fresh ban on the sale of liquor.

President Cyril Ramaphosa said “reckless behaviour” caused by drinking increased the risk of spreading Covid as he announced the ban on Monday.

A new, faster-spreading variant of the coronavirus was detected in South Africa about two weeks ago.

Mr Ramaphosa said it had become “well-established” in the country.

As part of a new slew of restrictions aimed at restricting further transmission, he has banned gatherings except for funerals, imposed a curfew between 21:00 and 06:00, and ordered all shops, bars and other venues to shut by 20:00.

Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday after the new measures came into effect, Police Minister Bheki Cele warned that restaurants would lose their trading licences and owners prosecuted if they flouted the ban.

“Don’t put alcohol in your teapots in restaurants. Don’t put alcohol in the bottles written 0% alcohol. We know your tricks, don’t do that,” said Mr Cele.

Police Minister Bheki Cele
Police Minister Bheki Cele warned restaurants that the authorities were aware of “their tricks” to hide alcohol
“If we find that there is something different in the teapots and not tea in the teapot – we will make sure that you lose your [trading] license.”

To beat a hard lockdown imposed in April and May during the first Covid-19 wave some restaurants sought to evade a ban on liquor sales by serving drinks in teapots and other containers.

The liquor ban announced on Monday will be in place until mid-January and will be enforced by the police with support from the army.

South Africa’s coronavirus crisis:
South Africa’s virus lessons – don’t forget the tea rooms

On Sunday South Africa became the first country in Africa to pass a million officially-recorded Covid-19 cases, with almost 27,000 deaths since the outbreak began in March.

Last week, it recorded a daily average of 11,700 new infections – a rise of 39% on the previous week – and from Wednesday to Friday, the daily number of new cases was above 14,000.

“As we had to in the early days of the lockdown, we now have to flatten the curve to protect the capacity of our healthcare system to enable it to respond effectively to this new wave of infections,” Mr Ramaphosa said on Monday.

“Reckless behaviour due to alcohol intoxication has contributed to increased transmission. Alcohol-related accidents and violence are putting pressure on our hospital emergency units.”