For the first time in weeks, South Africans are allowed to buy alcohol and cigarettes as the government relaxes lockdown restrictions introduced to curb the spread of coronavirus.

Long queues of eager customers formed outside shops just hours after the new rules came into effect.

The government said it had eased the lockdown because South Africa was seeing a decline in coronavirus cases.

More than 500,000 infections and 11,000 deaths related to Covid-19 have been reported in the country.

South Africa has the most effective coronavirus testing system in Africa. Tobacco and alcohol firms opposed the ban on the sale of liquor and cigarettes, saying it was having a negative impact on business.

Medical experts, however, supported the ban, saying it was vital that people led healthy lives while helping to ease the pressure on health services.

Some experts say smokers can increase the risk of spreading the virus because they project droplets – and potentially Covid-19 if infected – when they exhale smoke.

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