Following an exemption from lockdown regulations, several hotels remain operational as tourists from high-risk countries are being quarantined in hotels across the country.

Despite being barred from regular operation, under the latest exemption hotels can communicate with the Departments of Health and Tourism “in respect of identifying and providing appropriate facilities for persons placed under quarantine, as determined by the Department of Health,” said a Government Gazette article released on Friday (March 27) by the Minister of Trade, Industry and Competition.

The establishment had to fit into criteria set out by the Department of Health, and each hotel was fully inspected before confirmation for quarantine use, said Lee Zama, CEO of the Federated Hospitality Association of South Africa (Fedhasa).

 “You will appreciate that these are not normal and easy circumstances,” said Zama. “People would prefer to be in familiar surroundings at home.” She said all hotels were providing full meal service, and staff who have been trained by the DOH are confined to the same hotels.

According to a radio interview with Minister of Tourism, Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, a lot of hotels are offering their services. She said the tourism sector was also being supportive as the Tourism Business Council of South Africa had donated full cover to the value of R30 million (€1,5 million) to three hotels.

The Minister described the transformation of hotels into isolation facilities as not major but more operationally based. “Hotel staff interact with isolated guests as minimally as possible, meaning that food and laundry services are being rethought,” Kubayi-Ngubane said.

According to her, should a quarantined tourist test positive for COVID-19, they will be moved from the hotel to minimise spread of the virus.

“If the results come back positive, then you hand over to a health practitioner who can get you to the hospital, and get you admitted,” said Kubayi-Ngubane, reiterating that hotels were not to be treated as medical facilities.