South Africans started hoarding cigarettes and alcoholic drinks en masse on Tuesday after a ban on these products was lifted by the government. The sale of tobacco products and drinks was banned in March to prevent the spread of the corona virus.

The relaxation was announced on Saturday and was effective from 0.01 am (local time) on Tuesday. The suspension of the ban is part of a broader package of relaxations.

Given the months-long ban, there were long queues in the South African stores. "People don't buy parcels, but slippers," says a convenience store employee. A customer in a tobacco shop in Johannesburg says that he will buy several cigarette packs, because he expects the easing to be reversed soon.

South Africa is one of the five countries hardest hit by the corona crisis. According to figures from the American Johns Hopkins University, 589,886 people in the country have been infected with the corona virus. Only Russia, India, Brazil and the United States have to deal with more infections.