While South African citizens will be subjected to stricter health and safety protocols over the festive season – with imprisonment and/or hefty fines imposed for non-compliance – the country’s borders remain open and tourism and hospitality businesses will still be allowed to operate.
President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that, from midnight tonight (December 14) more stringent health and safety protocols would be implemented nationally following a significant increase in COVID-19 infections.
He said if government and private sector did not act urgently, the resurgence in COVID-19 cases could be even more severe than the initial outbreak. According to Ramaphosa, recent super-spreader events, such as the post-Matric Rage Festival in KwaZulu Natal, were responsible for the daily average of new cases being 74% higher than the peak of South Africa’s previous surge of infections.
“At many of these gatherings, social distancing is not being observed. They are often overcrowded, not ventilated properly, hand sanitisers are not readily available and people are not wearing masks.”
Ramaphosa added that Sarah Baartman and Garden Route Districts had also been declared hotspots, noting that and the same restrictions that had been implemented in Nelson Mandela Bay would now be applied in these districts.
Meanwhile, further restrictions to be enforced nationally include:
- The strict enforcement of the wearing of masks on public transport and in spaces open to the public. Failure of managers, owners or drivers to enforce this rule can result in a fine or imprisonment of up to six months.
- All gatherings, including religious, will be restricted to no more than 100 people in an indoor venue and 250 in outdoor venues. At all times, the total number of people at an event may not exceed 50% of the venue’s capacity and venues must have adequate ventilation, demonstrate the practice of social distancing, enforce the wearing of masks and make sanitiser available.
- Some beaches and public parks will be closed selectively:
- In the Eastern Cape and Garden Route all beaches and parks will be closed from December 16 to January 3.
- In KwaZulu Natal these areas will be closed on what has been deemed the busiest days of the festive season, namely; December 16, 25, 26 and 31; and January 1, 2 and 3.
- In the Northern and Western Cape, with the exception of the Garden Route, beaches and parks will remain open.
- These areas will be strictly monitored and only be permitted to open between 09h00 and 18h00.
- Curfew has been extended and will now run from 23h00 to 04h00. This means that all non-essential businesses such as restaurants and bars will have to close at 22h00 to allow patrons and staff time to travel home.
- The sale of alcohol will only be permitted between the hours of 10h00 and 18h00 from Monday to Thursday and the consumption of alcohol in public spaces will be strictly prohibited.
The President said registered wine farms and wineries could continue to offer tastings and wine sales to the public for off-site consumption over weekends. “This exception is being made due to the vital contribution of these establishments to the tourism sector in several parts of the country.”
Tourism industry still allowed to operate
Ultimately, the tourism industry has let out a collective sigh of relief as many tourism businesses will still be able to operate.
KwaZulu Natal-based tourism guide, Deon Booysens, said of the beach closures: “Fortunately the closures are only over the historically busy periods, a great deal better than having them closed for the whole festive season.”
MD and Co-Owner of Cape Xtreme Adventure Tours and Cape to Addo Safaris, Barry O’Donoghue disagrees with the blanket closure of the beaches in the Garden Route, but is also seeing some positivity saying: “I am very happy that travel and other tourist activities will still be permitted.”
He added that, as an operator, he would continue to act responsibly. “We are, and will continue to, act responsibly within the tourism sector. COVID-19 protocols are being adhered to and, where necessary, enforced.”
Ramaphosa said the National Coronavirus Command Council would be on call over the festive period, and would be prepared to meet immediately should the country’s situation worsen. He added that these regulations would be reviewed again in January.