Restaurants allowed to open as level 4 restrictions extended for two weeks
Share this article:
THE RESTAURANT industry has heaved a sigh of relief as the government has slightly relaxed the lockdown restrictions, although the healthcare system remains under pressure.
President Cyril Ramaphosa yesterday announced that the country would remain at adjusted level 4 of the lockdown for another 14 days, until July 25.
Ramaphosa said that restaurants and eateries would be able to operate, albeit while observing strict health protocols, in a bid to boost economic activity.
The restaurant industry has been pleading with the government to be allowed to reopen, because a number of establishments have closed or were on the brink of collapse because of the economic fallout from the pandemic.
“Such establishments may not accommodate more than 50 people at a time, or, for smaller venues, more than 50 percent of their normal capacity,” Ramaphosa said.
“Certain other venues, such as gyms and fitness centres, may also open, and activities such as agricultural livestock and game auctions will be allowed, subject to the conditions outlined in regulations.”
The hospitality and tourism industry will also benefit from the extension of the Covid-19 Temporary Employee/ Employer Relief Scheme (Ters).
Ramaphosa said the Unemployment Insurance Fund has embarked on negotiations with social partners to address the difficulties of employees who have lost income under the restrictions.
Since its inception last year, Ters has provided more than R60 billion to protect the jobs of 5.5 million workers.
However, the sale of alcohol remains strictly prohibited, as the government believes that alcohol and gatherings contribute to the transmission of the virus.
The alcohol industry has also pleaded, and even threatened court action, against the ban on the sale of alcohol, but the government has remained unmoved.
Ramaphosa said the country was experiencing a third wave that was more severe than the first and second waves, with the fast-spreading Delta variant of Covid-19.
“For the last two weeks, the country has consistently recorded an average of nearly 20 000 daily new cases,” he said.
“By next week, daily hospital admissions across the country are likely to reach the levels observed during the peak of the first two waves.”
Ramaphosa also said: “A prolonged period of uncontrolled infections would cause far greater economic damage than the restrictions put in place, disrupting production and deterring people from venturing out to entertainment venues and public spaces.”
To address the shortage of Covid-19 vaccines, Ramaphosa said the African Union and the EU had reached an agreement to improve the supply of vaccines significantly.
He said through this agreement, Aspen will be delivering more than 17 million Johnson & Johnson vaccine doses to South Africa and other African countries over the next three months, starting in late July.
The US was donating 15 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine to African countries through the Covax facility.