While government pushes for greater levels of social distancing, businesses where crowds typically gather are doing their best to keep economic activity up amid the coronavirus disaster, and have their own set of guidelines to keep customers safe.
For South Africa’s cinemas, this means reducing space between seats – what they call a ‘2-seat buffer’ – and reducing movie show times.
Ster Kinekor said that in light of president Cyril Ramaphosa’s declaration of the crises as a state of emergency, and in response to growing concern regarding the spread of the coronavirus, the cinema will ramp up hygiene protocol steps that had already been taken, including the placement of hand sanitisers in cinemas, and minimising staff in periods when they are not required.
New measures include two empty seats between each booked seat, while each cinema will reduce its capacity for each show to be capped at 100.
“We are proceeding with scheduled programming – however no shows will screen before 12h00 or after 18h00,” it said.
Nu Metro has also announced a set of actions to combat the virus while staying open.
It said it is encouraging social distancing by introducing at least a 1-metre spacing between booked seats. This has been effected using an automated system, whereby customers are automatically separated by 2 “buffer” seats on either side of their selection.
“These buffer seats are not displayed on our booking systems, and are thus unavailable for other guests to purchase,” it said.
Cinema capacity is also capped at below 100 visitors each, in compliance with the recommended specifications from the South African government.
Customers have direct access to hand sanitiser and are encouraged to sanitise regularly.
“We are sanitising seat armrests, cupholders, and tables before every performance. We are also disinfecting high-touchpoint areas such as kiosks, self-service terminals, serving counters, door handles, rails, benches, booths and bathroom areas.
“In addition to nightly deep-cleaning to disinfect all hand-contact surfaces, our cineplexes are increasing the frequency of cleaning and disinfecting all high-touchpoint areas throughout the day. Door handles, ticket counters, and service counters are being disinfected every 30 minutes during business hours.
“We have retrained all of our staff in thorough and frequent hand-washing—targeting palms, tops, wrists, and between fingers—with soap and water for at least 20 seconds every time,” it said.
While businesses like Ster Kinekor and Nu Metro are not yet being forced to close during the crisis, messaging from government has greatly encouraged South Africans to apply social distancing practices – imploring citizens to take control of their risk of exposure by decreasing contact with others.
Among government’s recommendations around social distancing, it is encouraging South Africans to avoid places like cinemas, malls and gyms – even if they are open for business.
Social distancing remains, for now, a recommendation, not a law – but should precautions fail to a point that a state of emergency must be declared, South Africa could follow in the footsteps of countries like France and Italy where any public gatherings are shut down.
Government has now gazetted new regulations giving effect to the prohibition of gatherings of more than 100 people, as well as empowering authorities to take legal action against those who deliberately expose others to the virus.
As of 18 March, 116 cases of coronavirus infection have been confirmed in South Africa, with the number expected to grow.