HEALTH FOOD STORES ARE ‘ESSENTIAL SERVICES’ WHICH SELL ‘ESSENTIAL GOODS’
Many countries who have placed restrictions on economic activity to protect their communities against Covid-19, are trying out new measures, but in some instances emergency regulations just don’t make sense, are too strict or lead to different interpretations by law enforcing officials.
The TNHA is currently inundated with queries from its members and non-members in the natural health product industry value chain relating to whether walk-in health food stores and their suppliers (importers, manufacturers and distributors) will be shut down during the 21-day shutdown staring at midnight on the 26th of March 2017.
Health food stores primarily sell complementary medicines and health products, food supplements and a wide variety of foodstuffs (including beverages), of which many are health-promoting and necessary for maintaining health and wellness. For many South Africans these products are their primary form of healthcare used to treat and prevent a host of illnesses and to relive symptoms.
All of these said product groups are loosely defined as ‘essential goods’ in terms of the recently published Lockdown Regulations gazetted on the 25th of March 2020, under the Disaster Management Act (Act 57 of 2002) See Annexure B – ‘Categorization of Goods and Services During Lockdown’. These products have also been referred to as ‘essential goods’ in official briefings and media statements by various government departments and the media.
WHAT MAKES PRODUCTS SOLD IN HEALTH FOOD STORES ‘ESSENTIAL GOOD’S’?
Complementary Medicines and Food Supplements are defined as a category of medicines “Category D” in terms of Section 1 of the General Regulations for Medicines of 2017, under the Medicines & Related Substances Act (Act 101 of 1965).
Foods and beverages are defined as foodstuffs in terms of Section 1 of the Foodstuffs, Cosmetics and Disinfectants Act (Act 54 of 1972)
HEALTH FOODS STORES ARE GROCERY STORES AND RETAILERS OF ESSENTIAL GOODS
Because health food stores primarily sell complementary medicines, food supplements and a wide variety of foods and beverages, and which are officially deemed ‘essential goods’, health stores must by definition of what they sell, be exempted from lockdown closure in the same vain as pharmacies, grocery stores, supermarkets and spaza shops.
Government has progressively passed legislation in South Africa which has guaranteed the public a choice in their chosen healthcare, and these lockdown regulations acknowledge this.
HOW MUST HEALTH STORES COMPLY IN ORDER TO CONTINUE TRADING ?
All health shop owners are required to apply for an official operating exemption permit with the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC), by filling in their company and service details on the new online exemption application website at www.bizportal.go.za. Your business must be registered with the CIPC to obtain an exemption permit.
Once all your company details have been captured successfully, an email will follow with an attached exemption permit which you MUST KEEP AT YOUR COMPANY PREMISES at all times for inspection by enforcement authorities.
We strongly suggest owners and all employees who will continue to work in the stores keep a copy of the exemption permit on their person during travel to and from work, as this form part of prima facie evidence of legitimate work travel.
We are aware that the online portal has a high number of traffic at present and that getting into the website is often problematic. We urge you to keep trying if you are unable to gain access. This permit will soon be mandatory in order for your business to remain open.
HOW DO THE OWNERS AND STAFF OF HEALTH FOOD STORES TRAVEL TO AND FROM WORK WITHOUT RESTRICTIONS ?
All owners, management and essential staff required to run health stores are required to carry on their person a ‘Permit To Perform Essential Service’ (See Form 1 of Annexure C of the Lockdown Regulations) This must be produced on demand at roadblocks and handed to law enforcement officials (including SANDF) in order to satisfy them that you or your staff are employed in an exempt industry sector and institution.
This form is filled in by employers.
Together with this permit, we suggest a copy of the business exemption permit be attached, along with a letter on your company letterhead confirming the employ of the staff member, containing their name, ID number, home address, work address, owner’s signature as well as a cellular contact number for senior management to verify.
All travelers during lockdown are required to carry their ID (SA Citizens) or a valid passport.
ONLY ‘ESSENTIAL GOODS’ MAY BE SOLD TO CUSTOMERS
In terms Section 11(b)(iv)(c) of the Lockdown Regulations only essential goods may be sold to the public in retail shops. Products which are not expressly complementary medicines, food supplements and foods & beverages are prohibited from being sold. Please inform your staff of this restriction as this may result in either your exemption permit being withdrawn, being fined, or worse, imprisonment.
HYGIENE AND SOCIAL DISTANCING MEASURES
All stores are to exercise social distancing among customers, and limit the amount of customers in the store at any one time. Make sure one square meter is maintained between queuing customers inside and outside the store.
Please put in place measures to hand sanitize the hands of all customers entering your store, with sanitizers containing more than 60% alcohol/vol. Make sure staff wipe down all store counters, door handles, point of sale devices with sanitizers or disinfectants on a regular basis.
We suggest all staff wear disposable gloves and face masks.
NO FOOD OR BEVERAGE PREPARATION IS ALLOWED
It is forbidden to prepare or sell foods for sit-down, takeaways or delivery during lockdown. If your store has a juice bar or wholefood café section it must remain closed.
NOTIFY YOUR LANDLORDS
We highly suggest you supply your landlord a copy of your exemption permit once issued, and notify them of your intention to remain open for business. If your health store is located inside a shopping mall, please notify your Centre Management with supportive documentation (exemption permit).
ENGAGING WITH INSPECTORS AND LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICIALS
Always have your CIPC issued exemption permit on hand for inspection by any inspectors or law enforcement agencies which may inquire about your business remaining open. Print out a copy of this communication and refer them to the relevant legislation mentioned.
Have your staff produce their ‘Permit To Perform Essential Service’ (See Form 1 of Annexure C of the Lockdown Regulations) if requested by officials.
MANUFACTURING OF ESSENTIAL GOODS
Manufacturers of complementary medicines, food supplements and foods, and/or supply raw ingredients for manufacture, must obtain an exemption permit to conduct business in the sector.
Have your staff produce their ‘Permit To Perform Essential Service’(Annexure C) when requested by officials.
IMPORTATION OF ESSENTIAL GOODS
Some ports of entry remain open to receive cargo. Companies importing complementary medicines, health supplements and health foods must obtain an exemption permit to have good cleared.
DISTRIBUTION AND WHOLESALE OF ESSENTIAL GOODS
Companies distributing complementary medicines, food supplements and health foods must obtain an exemption permit to sell and convey essential goods.
Have your staff produce their ‘Permit To Perform Essential Service’ (See Form 1 of Annexure C of the Lockdown Regulations) when requested by officials.
LOGISTICS AND TRANSPORT OF ESSENTIAL GOODS
Many logistics companies are currently refusing to transport goods not declared as essential goods, as many shipments are consolidated. They do not want to run the risk of transporting non-essential goods and be in breach of the Lockdown Regulations, which restrict them to transporting essential goods only.
Over-night airfreight deliveries have been severely curtailed with the cancellation of all domestic passenger air travel. Commercial airlines have up until now transported the bulk of time sensitive cargo on passenger flights. This also pertains to international commercial airlines which have ceased traveling to and from South Africa and are no longer transporting imported cargo.
If you have a logistics company which can transport your stock, please ask them to declare the contents as medicines and/or foods clearly, both on the waybill and printed clearly on the packages, in order to prevent any confusion on compliance checks. Supply your logistics company with a copy of your exemption permit once received.
If you have any further queries please feel free to contact us.
V1.1 (27 / 03 / 2020)