KZN won’t close beaches for now – but swimming restrictions could follow: premier

KwaZulu-Natal premier Sihle Zikalala says that the province will remain open for business during the December period and that South Africans shouldn’t cancel their holiday plans.

However, Zikalala said that the province will be implementing strict measures to ensure that protocols are followed, including the wearing of masks and social distancing.

Zikalala told eNCA that tourists would be welcomed into the province at hotels and BnBs, but that they should avoid areas that are overcrowded.

The premier added that no formal decision had been taken to close beaches in the province – however, he confirmed that all large events would be prohibited.

“Beaches will not be closed for now – that is the decision we (as a province) have taken. If it comes to push, we might be forced to close (the beaches) for swimming, but allow people to be in and around the beach for leisure.”

Zikalala explained that this eventuality could arise as people are forced to remove their masks for swimming, but not for other activities.

While open spaces such as beaches are largely seen as safe from coronavirus transmission, the premier said that he was concerned about overcrowding on specific days.

These days include:

  • 16 December – Day of Reconciliation and a public holiday;
  • 26 December  – Day of Goodwill and a public holiday;
  • 31 December – New Year’s Eve.

Zikalala said that any decision on restrictions will be made by president Cyril Ramaphosa, based on presentations made by his provincial government.

“That is why we are saying that there is no such decision (from national government to close beaches), as the president has made no decision.”

This aligns with comments made by Health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize who said that the country’s provincial governments are considering recommendations on how to contain large gatherings and parties.

Mkhiz  said that the ultimate decision on these recommendations will be made by president Cyril Ramaphosa, after discussions with the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC).

When asked as to whether South Africa could revert to a higher lockdown level, Mkhize said that provincial governments, district municipalities and stakeholders have been asked for plans and proposals which will be tabled for consideration by the NCCC and cabinet.

Mkhize said that it is not possible to know what level of restrictions could be introduced, but he said that there has to be some way to encourage responsible behaviour from South Africans and discourage complacent behaviour.

“Once all of these issues have been tabled together, we can then can get a more definitive answer on the best way to go forward. But that will be after cabinet and president Ramaphosa gives an address – then we will have a clear direction,” he said.

In the time being, Mkhize said that the focus will continue to be on containment measures such as mask, social distancing and good hygiene practices.

“Yes, (the) festive season is time for us to relax and enjoy with our families but we now need to understand that we have a responsibility to enjoy with various restraints.

“If our enjoyment is going to lead to more people getting sick, getting admitted and even some losing lives, it is not a responsible way of enjoying ourselves. We need to prepare for a festive season with a difference.”

Read: Alcohol industry announces measures to reduce Covid-19 spread in South Africa

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KZN won’t close beaches for now – but swimming restrictions could follow: premier