The tourism industry should plan for a long-term period of reduced earnings as South Africa’s lockdown and international travel restrictions could be extended.

Government legislation issued by multiple ministerial departments this week makes provision for an extension of the 21-day South African lockdown. A number of countries have already extended their lockdown periods, indicating that travel bans are unlikely to be lifted in the short-term.

In the past week, Italy, France and Denmark have all extended their lockdown dates.

SA Minister of Employment and Labour, Thulas Nxesi, announced this week that a National Disaster Benefit Fund would soon be launched for the duration of the shutdown, to a maximum period of three months. According to media reports, Treasury also extended public finance deadlines this week, specifically including a provision for a further deadline extension “if the lockdown regarding the movement of persons and goods as a result of the national state of disaster is extended”.

Lead adviser at consultancy firm, TaranisCo Advisory, Gerrit Davids, highlighted that legislation – and the regulations that are currently making provision for lockdown to be extended – was fuelling speculation that the South African lockdown could continue beyond April 17.

“Section 27 of the Disaster Management Act allows for a National State of Disaster to be declared for a period of 90 days, which lapses three months after it has been declared. The State of Disaster may be extended by the Minister, by notice in the Gazette, for one month at a time before it lapses or the existing extension is due to expire,” he pointed out.

“We have to take our cues from government. The good news, so far, is that South Africa is well below the projected infection rates expected by the end of March. The government has been planning for the worst but should the low spread of infection continue, internal movement restrictions are likely to be eased long before the government opens up for international passenger flights,” said Davids.