Salons and hairdressers could reopen in South Africa sooner than you think

Minister of Trade and Industry Ebrahim Patel has outlined the rules that South African businesses will need to follow from 1 June.

At a media briefing on Thursday (28 May 2020), Patel said that this is the most significant reopening of the economy since the lockdown began on 27 March.

Patel said that while level 5 and 4 of the lockdown were drafted with the idea of most South Africans being at home, the level 3 regulations are instead developed to factor in that most South Africans will return to work.

The minister said that around 8 million people will return to work under level 3, almost the entire working population of South Africa, which is around 10 million people.  However, he noted that those who can work from home where possible should continue to do so.

Citing the example of personal care services – such as hairdressers and salons – Patel said that his department is engaging the industry to make sure that this is a ‘short-term prohibition’ and that guidelines will be developed.

All hair salons, beauty therapists and cosmetology studios have been closed since lockdown began, and it is not yet clear when they might reopen again, given South Africa’s strict distancing rules.

“In level 5 and level 4 we had very detailed list of what was allowed but there has now been a shift. Instead, we have developed a list of prohibited activities based on social distancing measures.”

These include:

  • Sit-down meals at restaurants;
  • Onsite consumption of liquor;
  • Certain restriction on hotels and backpackers for recreation purposes. However, they will be open for business persons;
  • Limitations on cruise ships, conventions and sports events.

Jobs and livelihoods at stake

Earlier in May, the Sorbet group cautioned that South Africa’s continued lockdown could see the entire grooming sector face bankruptcy – with no clear outline for how and when these businesses can return to work.

Sorbet, which has 220 salons across South Africa, said that the vast majority of its salons are owner-managed, who are dependent on their store profits as their only source of income.

They employ approximately 3,500 persons, the majority of whom are trained as female beauty therapists, nail technicians, hair stylists and barbers, it said.

Their employees are often the sole breadwinners in their families and support many dependants, which is estimated to be a further 20,000 people from disadvantaged communities.

“The closure of the salon industry due to the national lockdown is having a devastating impact on the industry, the salon owners, their employees and dependants,” it said.

“Initial estimates show that 40% of Sorbet salons could face closure should the lockdown restrictions prevent them from returning to trade by 1 June 2020.

Criminal law advocate Carlo Viljoen meanwhile, has filed papers with the High Court in Cape Town, ordering government to lift the ban on hairdressers and salons.

Viljoen said he represents the interests of as many as 210,000 professionals. He claims that the country has 90,000 registered hairdressers and approximately 120,000 unregistered hairdressers.

Read: South Africa’s level 3 lockdown – what you need to know, including the times you can buy alcohol

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Salons and hairdressers could reopen in South Africa sooner than you think