Ramaphosa’s restaurants reprieve too little, industry says
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PRETORIA – Restaurants and eateries across South Africa cannot viably operate under an adjusted level four Covid-19 lockdown, even with the reprieve announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa allowing the sector to re-open for sit-in patrons, an industry official said.
In a national address on Sunday night, Ramaphosa said eateries which have for the last 14 days only been able to sell take-away food, would now be allowed to welcome sit-in customers with a limit of 50 people at a time, while smaller venues should not have more than 50 percent of their normal capacity.
Restaurants Association of South Africa chief executive Wendy Alberts said the relaxed rules were inadequate, and showed that the government did not fully understand the plight of the sector.
“Yet again, the core element of our business is not being addressed. When we come up with numbers like 50, some of our restaurants are sitting on close to a thousand square meter properties, how do we begin to make those margins work? 50 is the number but where does it come from?” she said.
“Where is the scientific basis of how we formulated it or we just magically appeared to have the number 50? “We appreciate that the president and everybody have listened, but have they really understood what the needs of the industry are?”
She said the government had made an inconsistent decision which would have far-reaching negative ramifications for an industry which has been on its knees due to multiple orders to shut down in the fight against Covid-19.
“So we still can’t trade in our core business. Now you expect us to do a breakfast, lunchtime and dinner trade with the curfew impacting us? Then you expect our businesses which are on 500 to a thousand square metres to trade with 50 people? This is just inconsistent decision-making,” said Alberts.
She noted that thousands of sommeliers, barmen and wine attendants were still unable to come back to work.
On Sunday, Ramaphosa announced the extension of the adjusted level four lockdown imposed a fortnight ago for another 14 days, saying the country had consistently recorded an average of nearly 20,000 new Covid-19 cases daily.
“At present the country has over 200,000 active Covid-19 cases in the last two weeks,” he said, announcing that all gatherings, indoors and outdoors were therefore still prohibited, although public places like beaches and parks would remain open.
“When I last addressed you, I indicated that we would assess the situation after 14 days and determine what adjustments may be required. As things stand now, infections remain extremely high. With the fast-spreading Delta variant, we are experiencing a third wave that is more severe than the first and the second wave.”
From July 11 to July 25, the following measures will remain in place:
- All social, political, religious and other gatherings remain prohibited.
- A daily curfew remains in place from 9pm until 4am and only those with permission to do so may leave their homes during that period.
- The sale of alcohol remains prohibited.
- Schools will remain closed until July 26.