Count your blessings, wine lovers and tourists – the government has gazetted amendments to the lockdown regulations allowing wine estates to trade on Sundays. But all businesses where gatherings take place must be closed by latest 9pm, and the 10pm curfew stands.
It’s a small “peace offering” to the Cape after the Garden Route in the Southern Cape and Sarah Baartman district in the Eastern Cape, which includes Port Elizabeth, Jeffrey’s Bay and Port Alfred lost beach access until after the new year.
After President Cyril Ramaphosa’s address last week Monday, in which he announced wine estates would be allowed to trade over weekends, the government gazetted regulations on Tuesday which were at odds with the president’s earlier overture to the wine industry, by stipulating that wine sales would be allowed from Mondays to Saturdays only elicited fury from the sector and spurred the provincial Agriculture Department to appeal to national government to review the limitations on sales.
On Thursday evening, an amendment to the regulations was gazetted.
This means wine farms can host wine tastings and sell wines on Sundays.
Accommodation providers such as hotels, lodges, bed and breakfasts and guest houses are allowed to operate at capacity, provided guests observe a distance of at least 1.5m from one another when in common spaces. Loud music, including live music, is “otherwise prohibited”.
Conferencing, dining, entertainment and bars are limited to a maximum of 100 people or less indoors and 250 or less outdoors and if the venue is too small to hold 100 people, then not more than 50% of its capacity may be used – but there’s no clarity on what can be “too small”.
All beaches in the Eastern Cape and the Garden Route remain closed from December 16 to January 3, while in KwaZulu-Natal, which has experienced an influx of visitors in recent days, beaches will only be closed on December 25, 26 and 31 as well as January 1, 2 and 3.
The DA and the Great Brak Business Forum, backed by AfriForum, have announced plans to challenge the ban on the grounds it is unconstitutional, illegal and invalid.
Previously, the regulations permitted wineries and wine farms to offer tastings and sales for only off-site consumption, from 10am to 6pm from Mondays to Saturdays. Now, they need to comply with the same 9pm curfews for restaurants, taverns, bars, entertainment venues, gyms, arts and culture venues and other places where gatherings take place, but they are allowed to sell on Sundays.
But alcohol sales are still banned on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, which means gin and brandy distilleries and craft breweries may not sell on weekends.
Initiations are prohibited in eight provinces, except the Eastern Cape, although in the Sarah Baartman district, a hot spot, it remains banned.
On Friday, Western Cape Agriculture Minister Ivan Meyer welcomed the extension, saying it was in line with his request dated December 16.
Meyer said limiting sales would have been detrimental to the wine tourism and agro-processing economy, which employed thousands of people in the province.
“The decision by the national government makes it now possible for the wine industry to focus on what matters now – the rebuilding of the wine tourism economy.”
He said that while the provincial government was concerned about the resurgence of Covid-19 cases in the country, it was critical that to get the balance right between saving lives and livelihoods.
“Visiting a wine farm that is following careful health and safety protocols is an example of safe tourism behaviour during this difficult time. This is because it is primarily an outdoor activity with good ventilation, where social distancing is possible.
“We encourage visitors to the Western Cape to visit our registered wineries and wine farms. By doing so, you will be contributing to the economic recovery of the wine industry.”
* Georgina Crouth is a consumer watchdog with serious bite. Write to her at [email protected], tweet her @georginacrouth and follow her on Facebook.