President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced that South Africa will move to an ‘advanced’ level 3 lockdown, with a number of business sectors reopened to the public.
Speaking in a national address on Wednesday evening (17 June), Ramaphosa said that many businesses that stopped operating on 27 March when the lockdown first came into effect have not been able to operate.
Following discussions with industry representatives, provincial heads, scientists as well as cabinet, Ramaphosa said that restrictions will be eased for:
- Restaurants – allowing for sit-down meals;
- Accredited and licensed accommodation facilities (except Airbnb);
- Conferences and meetings for business purposes (in-line with safety guidelines);
- Cinemas and theatres;
- Personal care services including hairdressers;
- Non-contact sports including tennis, golf, cricket and others;
- Contact sports – only for training.
In each instance, specific and stringent safety requirements have been agreed to by the various representatives of these industries, Ramaphosa said.
These will need to be put in place and protocols will need to be strictly adhered to for these activities to remain open, he said.
Further details on opening dates and the guidelines that must be followed will be published at a later date.
South Africa remains at lockdown level 3, but additional sectors of our economy will now be allowed to reopen – as long as strict measures are in place to ensure physical distancing & personal hygiene. #COVID19 pic.twitter.com/lyNAqCUOdv
— Presidency | South Africa 🇿🇦 (@PresidencyZA) June 17, 2020
Worst is still to come
Ramaphosa noted that the country’s coronavirus cases have continued to increase and that South Africa was now facing a ‘marathon and not a sprint.’
Ramaphosa said that of Wednesday there have been 1,674 Covid-19 deaths and 80,412 confirmed cases.
He noted that in the three weeks prior to the lockdown, the number of reported coronavirus infections doubled every two days. During level 5 of the lockdown, this increased to 15 days buying the country more time, he said.
He added that the doubling time has now dropped to around 12 days during levels 4 and levels 3.
“Nearly a third of all confirmed cases have been reported in the last week alone and nearly half of all cases have been reported in the last two weeks,” he said.
— GCIS Media Liaison (@GCISMedia) June 17, 2020
The announcement will be welcomed by a number of business sectors, including the restaurant industry which has been particularly hard-hit by the national lockdown.
The Restaurant Association of South Africa (Rasa) estimates that restaurants employ around 800,000 people in South Africa, with these employees being some of the hardest hit in South Africa.
Speaking in an interview with 702 on Wednesday (17 June), Rasa chief executive officer Wendy Alberts said that the industry will need to have a number of relaxed rules if it is to resume business.
Alberts said that the industry will not survive if restaurants are forced to stick to the same guidelines as churches which state that only 50 people are allowed into a building.
“We have got some restaurants that have got outside seating areas of 1,000 square metres, so to put 50 people in those environments would certainly damage those restaurants forever,” she said.
According to Alberts, restaurants will want to be able to serve more than 50 people at once. This could be achieved by expanding the footprints of restaurants outside, and strictly adhering to other social distancing protocols.
Rules that the industry is looking at include:
- Strict safety guidelines for staff members;
- 1.5 metres between customers;
- 1 metre between customers that know each other;
- The serving of liquor with meals;
- Blocking/removing certain tables and chairs;
- Expanding the footprints of certain restaurants to outside.
Alberts added that a number of other countries have opened their restaurants for full capacity and provide guidelines for the reopening of the industry in South Africa.
She added that staff and food hygiene are already common-place in the industry so it will be relatively easy to adapt for the coronavirus.