The 20h00 Sunday July 11 “family meeting” address by President Cyril Ramaphosa held few surprises for the Covid-disrupted South African economy, as the Delta variant of the virus spreads across the country.
Most notably, the restaurant industry got a reprieve. The restrictions will now allow customers to enter restaurants, sit down and have a meal indoors, under the existing strict health protocols already in place, with a maximum of 50 patrons at a time (or for “smaller venues”, 50% of maximum capacity). But there are still to be no alcohol sales on-site or off-site.
While it was generally accepted that the President would announce that the adjusted level 4 lockdown was to be extended for another 14 days, until Sunday July 25, several players had said prior to the speech, that this extension would prove devastating for many sectors of the economy.
Wendy Alberts, CEO of the Restaurant Association of South Africa (RASA) said, prior to the President’s speech that RASA was preparing to wage a court battle with the government over the restaurant closure. She complained of the government’s lack of consultation and communications and its inconsistent decisions. She said there was no scientific evidence of risk in operating restaurants and the incidence of Covid-19, as compared with this risk for shopping malls and large retail stores. “The Minister (of Tourism) is compromised as she now has the Health portfolio. We don’t even have a voice in the NCCC,” said Wendy.
TBCSA CEO, Tshifhiwa Tshivenghwa said on SABC news prior to the President’s speech that it had been a pity that there was no government support for businesses affected by lockdown, pointing out that TERS was not government help, as it did not emanate from the government but from the UIF, therefore from the employees themselves.
He also said earlier that an extension of the lockdown would be “disastrous”. On the subject of how the alcohol sales ban affects tourism, Tshifhiwa said alcohol is just a part of the experience that we serve to tourists, and those tourists want the full offering.
The President was immovable on the matter of alcohol sales, saying: “We now know that restrictions on the sale of alcohol reduce numbers in hospitals, and we need to free up capacity.”
President Ramaphosa indicated the National vaccination programme would shortly ramp up seriously. He said that a meeting between the AU and the EU had resulted in an agreement between the two parties on the supply of vaccines to Africa.