All national parks, casinos, theme parks and other major tourist attractions will close, as part of the national lockdown announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa to curtail the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Many attractions such as Table Mountain cableway and beaches along the Durban beachfront have already been closed to the public and tourists.
Gaming group Sun International started closing its casinos across the country from Tuesday, while its industry peer Tsogo Sun Gaming announced that its casinos will close as of Wednesday (today), ahead of the official lockdown coming into effect at midnight on Thursday, March 26. The lockdown will be in force for 21 days until midnight on April 16.
Meanwhile, embattled state airline South African Airlines (SAA) announced late on Tuesday night that it will suspend all domestic flights effective March 27, as part of the nationwide lockdown. It has already suspended all international flights in-line with similar moves by most global carriers such as Emirates.
The lockdown comes as the number of Covid-19 cases in South Africa is set to top the 700-mark. Globally the tally of people who have contracted the virus is expected to reach half a million by Friday. It has already surpassed the 400 000 mark, with the US seeing cases spike to 50 000 on Tuesday.
Tourism Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane said during an inter-ministerial media briefing earlier on Tuesday that the industry will come to a virtual standstill in South Africa, conceding that the economic ramifications will be significant.
She said all major tourist attractions in the country will be closed.
However, she raised concerns about players in the hospitality industry, such as some restaurants, that were not abiding to an earlier “state of disaster” declaration that all eateries, pubs and shebeens should not serve alcohol after 6pm.
That rule is likely to be usurped by the lockdown measures announced by Ramaphosa on Monday night, which basically stated that all businesses need to close, except for services such as healthcare, pharmacies, supermarkets selling food, petrol stations, some financial services and security, among other essential services.
This could mean that restaurants, take-aways, cinemas and even Uber eats services will not be allowed to operate, while stores such as clothing outlets and those that sell just homeware and white goods will also have to close.
Details on the stores and businesses that will be allowed to operate under the lockdown are expected to be released by the Department of Trade and Industry on Wednesday.
Mall landlords, already hard hit by Covid-19 economic ramifications, will be hoping that lockdown rules for such stores are not as stringent. However, the fact that most major shopping centres and smaller malls in South Africa have food grocers as anchor tenants, will mean that shopping centres in the country will not be entirely closed during the lockdown.
Meanwhile, in its Covid-19 Sens announcement on the JSE on Tuesday, Sun International announced that it would be closing all its hotels in South Africa as part of the lockdown. The group has hotels at all its casinos around the country and also operates standalone hotels such as The Table Bay at Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront and The Maslow in Sandton.
“During the lockdown period, the group will operate on a limited staff basis, with only a handful of key and essential personnel remaining on the premises, to ensure the general maintenance and security…. We have engaged with our union, employees, suppliers, service providers and concessionaires and significant action is being taken to reduce costs during the lockdown,” it said.
“While Sun International continues to engage with its various lenders to ensure that its credit facilities are maintained, the full financial impact of the coronavirus on the company will only be able to be determined once the lockdown has been uplifted and its ramifications properly assessed. Shareholders will be kept apprised of developments in this regard,” the group added.
On Friday, JSE-listed Tsogo Sun Hotels, which was unbundled from Tsogo Gaming last year, announced that it would be “deactivating” (essentially temporarily closing) 36 hotels within the group as a result of a “collapse in demand”.
Tsogo Sun Gaming said in a statement that despite reduced trading volumes since March 19 and the 21-day lockdown, which will have a negative impact on the results for the financial year ending 31 March 2020, the group still expects to deliver a solid set of results regardless of this setback.
“From Monday 16 March 2020, directly after the President’s speech, the negative impact of the COVID-19 virus became directly evident for the first time, and from Thursday 19 March 2020 the position deteriorated significantly with sites operating with limited capacity due to the regulatory restrictions,” noted Chris du Toit, CEO of Tsogo Sun Gaming.
He said all divisions of the group, being LPMs (limited pay-out machines) operated in bars and restaurants, bingo sites and casino entertainment complexes, have been impacted.
“We fully support government’s efforts to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in South Africa. With the lockdown measures announced by the President, all Tsogo Sun Gaming casinos and Galaxy Bingo sites will be closed to the public by Wednesday 25 March 2020. VSlots will close down in line with the various sites where its machines are deployed,” added Du Toit.