Experts have warned that Black Friday and traditional end-of-year functions could serve as Covid-19 “superspreaders” as the number of infections spiked. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/ANA
Experts have warned that Black Friday and traditional end-of-year functions could serve as Covid-19 “superspreaders” as the number of infections spiked. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/ANA

Black Friday, festive season shopping sprees could serve as Covid-19 'superspreaders'

By Mwangi Githathu, Marvin Charles Time of article published Nov 23, 2020

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Cape Town - Experts have warned that Black Friday and traditional end-of-year functions could serve as Covid-19 “superspreaders” as the number of infections spiked.

With retailers preparing for a flood of shoppers hoping to bag Black Friday deals this week, and the Christmas special deals and discounts to follow, fears of a second wave of Covid-19 infections have spurred the provincial government to warn about the creation of super-spreader events if shoppers and retailers do not strictly adhere to Covid-19 safety protocols.

On Friday, in a notification sent to its staff, City manager Lungelo Mbandazayo said: “No year-end functions will be permitted for safety reasons and to reduce the spread of the virus. Accordingly, the customary time off given to employees to attend year-end functions will not apply this year and no City manager-approved time off will be granted in lieu thereof.”

This was as the cumulative total of confirmed Covid-19 cases in South Africa stood at 765 409, with 2 646 new cases identified since the previous day’s report, according to Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize.

Premier Alan Winde said: “In the next week we will see a number of Black Friday sales, which have the potential to attract large crowds or become a super-spreader event unless carefully handled and managed.

“We know that many residents face extreme economic pressure at the moment, and the prospect of large savings is compelling. We also know that many retailers and businesses have had a tough year and will be looking to maximise their sales,” said Winde.

“We therefore call on retailers to put in place measures that assist in managing crowds – either by extending the number of days that the discounts are available and trading hours, and by conducting sales online.”

Finance and Economic Opportunities MEC David Maynier said: “To support retailers and other businesses, we will be meeting with major retailers and the property management companies for the major shopping centres this week to discuss risk management strategies, as well as the consequences of non-compliance of the Covid-19 safety measures.

“The engagement will include relevant law-enforcement agencies who will assist to manage Covid-19 safety compliance,” said Maynier.

Shoprite and Checkers supermarkets spokesperson Angelique Wagner said: “Shoprite and Checkers supermarkets will offer early Black Friday deals and discounts of up to 50% on everyday essentials as customers are increasingly looking for value, given the pressure many households are under.

“In response to Covid-19, both Shoprite and Checkers supermarkets will for the first time offer early Black Friday deals and keep the deals valid for longer, to allow customers more time to plan and shop, and to prevent overcrowding.”

Department of Health spokesperson Shimoney Regter said: “Gathering indoors in crowded places with poor ventilation where social distancing cannot be maintained can lead to rapid infection through super-spreader events. It is thus very important that we socialise safely.”

Meanwhile, the South African e-commerce industry has experienced a massive boom in 2020 accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The spokesperson for e-tailer OneDayOnly.co.za, Matthew Leighton, said the firm had conducted a survey among 5 806 of their shoppers.

“According to the survey, around 62% of online shoppers are in the 25-44 year age bracket, which tells us that millennials and Gen Z are driving online spending. The majority (61%) of respondents said they shop online due to the convenience, while 15% believe online shopping provides a greater selection of items to choose from, and another 15% reckon things are generally cheaper online. Black Friday, which is just around the corner, is the biggest opportunity for the e-commerce industry to contribute towards economic reinvigoration,” said Leighton.

The head of product and customer value proposition at African Bank, Neil Thompson, said: “It is an exciting time but also an opportunity for criminals to strike. Black Friday and Cyber Monday is the time of the year that phishing grounds are the most lucrative for cyber criminals. While retailers should go to great lengths to protect your data, as consumers it still remains your responsibility.”

Consumers who will be at shopping centres during the sales should be vigilant. The spokesperson for security firm Fidelity Services Group, Charnel Hattingh, said: “Remain on guard at all times while shopping, be aware of who is around you and especially keep your children and valuables safe.”

Cape Argus

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