Cape Town - Calls from the City of Cape Town, Western Cape government and others across the country to end the nationwide curfew have been heard, after the national government did just that on Thursday evening.
Cape Town mayoral committee member for economic growth James Vos had on Wednesday joined the growing call to terminate the curfew and allow businesses and informal traders to resume trading in full, due to the high levels of Covid-19 vaccinations already administered.
Premier Alan Winde had also called on President Cyril Ramaphosa to lift the curfew ahead of New Year’s Eve, warning that “if it continues, it will have a major impact on our tourism and hospitality sector with restaurants unable to serve patrons until midnight, losing significant revenue”.
In a statement on Thursday evening, Cabinet confirmed that the curfew would be lifted ahead of New Year's Day - meaning there will be no restrictions on the hours or movement of people on Friday evening.
Furthermore, the limits on gatherings have been raised to no more than 1 000 people indoors and no more than 2 000 people outdoors.
Where the venue is too small to accommodate these numbers with appropriate social distancing, then no more than 50 percent of the capacity of the venue may be used. All other restrictions remain in place, Cabinet announced.
This news was welcomed by the provincial government and the City of Cape Town on Friday.
“This is very welcome news and is long overdue,” Vos said.
“It is also a victory for the many industry bodies, businesses and leaders who have petitioned national government on this issue.
“This will be a huge relief to the hundreds of thousands of workers in tourism and hospitality - the industries that have borne the brunt of the national lockdown and reduced trading time,” Vos added.
“In the many months - more than a year, in fact - that the City has been calling for an end to curfews, I have heard time and again from small business owners across Cape Town how they need every possible hour of trading to make an income and to better pay their staff.
“This update will mean that these businesses will be able to take full advantage of the remainder of this holiday season,” he said.
Also hailing the relaxation of Covid-19 restrictions, Winde said he had previously argued this move was “critical if we are to get the balance right in saving both lives and jobs” by allowing the tourism and hospitality sector to operate fully.
“It will also prevent a diversion of policing resources province-wide from crime hotspots in order to try and enforce this measure which is not necessary,” he said.
“While the removal of the curfew is very welcomed news, it means an even greater responsibility on residents to ensure that we protect those at risk, and to prevent trauma this weekend.
“The number of trauma cases over the weekend, especially at month end, remains extremely high and this places a great burden on our emergency rooms.
“It is therefore important that we celebrate safely and responsibly,” the premier added.
“Do not drink and drive or drink and walk. Please find alternative ways to get home if you have been drinking. Pedestrian deaths account for a high number of road accidents.
“2021 has been a difficult year, and we are all excited to usher in a new year. I share this excitement. But let this be a time of celebration and not of grief, by being safe and responsible,” Winde said.
He also used the chance to reiterate the Western Cape government’s position that Ramaphosa should go a step further by ending the lockdown entirely.
“We must end the national state of disaster to grow the economy and create jobs,” said Winde.