Tourism Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane had a little bit of good news for the embattled hospitality industry and ordinary South Africans on Thursday when she announced that Covid-19 lockdown restrictions are set to be slightly eased.
This includes the evening curfew being extended by an hour, to 10pm, and the decision to now allow for intra-provincial domestic leisure travel. The latter means that South Africans are now allowed to travel within their own provinces for leisure, which could see uptick in business for hotels, restaurants and leisure facilities.
The date for the slight easing of these lockdown level 3 restrictions is expected to be confirmed by Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) Minister, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, within the next few days and become effective sometime in August.
“In our recent discussions with the restaurant sector, two issues were raised with regards to current regulations. One was the crippling effect of the nine o’clock curfew to restaurant business operations and the second was the issue of alcohol sale,” Kubayi-Ngubane noted in her webcast media address.
“To comply with the current curfew regulation, restaurants are unable to serve dinner to their customers which means that they are unable to operate at peak time of their business day. In response to this challenge, Cabinet has agreed to move the curfew to start at 10pm to allow for uninterrupted dinner service at restaurants. We believe that this change will go a long way towards increasing their revenue generation,” she said.
Kubayi-Ngubane, however, reiterated that the sale of alcohol remains prohibited as well as inter-provincial domestic leisure travel (between provinces).
“Cabinet has also agreed to ease the restrictions around leisure travel. Currently, individuals are not allowed to leave their homes for leisure purposes. After the release of the new regulations, individuals will be permitted to leave their homes for leisure purposes within the province where they currently live,” she said.
“Let me emphasise, it is only intra-provincial travel not inter-provincial travel. Individuals are still not permitted to travel between provinces for leisure purposes,” she added.
The minister noted that this change will have implications for accommodation facilities that are permitted to operate under level 3. These facilities include hotels as well as accredited B&Bs and lodges that are already allowed to accommodate essential business travellers, under strict Covid-19 health protocols.
Kubayi-Ngubane pointed out that accommodation establishments are now permitted to operate for leisure intra-provincially subject to the following:
- No more than two people per room except for a nuclear family (parents and their children). Establishments are already legally obliged to require and keep a copy of proof of identity.
- Short-term home rental/sharing remain closed. This includes operations such as Airbnb
Meanwhile, the minister also announced that tour operators will be allowed to conduct guided tours in open safari vehicles subject to directions, which will include provision for both social distancing and maximum ventilation.
“These changes will come into effect as soon as the new regulations are gazetted,” she noted.
Kubayi-Ngubane said since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, her department together with South African Tourism have been having regular interaction with various industry stakeholders.
“These interactions, which are almost on a weekly basis, have helped us to gather inputs from all stakeholders on how best to reopen the sector and support the recovery going forward… These interactions have also helped to share information regarding how our government is managing the pandemic,” she said.
“Going forward we will invite health practitioners, who are advising government on how best to manage the pandemic, to meet with our sector so that together we can strategise on the way forward and are armed with all the necessary information,” she added.