Nica Richards
Deputy online news editor
3 minute read
2 Dec 2020
1:41 pm

Restaurants body calls on government to stop blaming the sector for Covid-19 surge

Nica Richards

The Restaurant Association of South Africa says throughout the pandemic, the sector has not received 'one drop of relief or compensation'.

A South African hospitality worker protests in front of advancing police in the streets around Parliament, Cape Town, South Africa, 24 July 2020. Police used stun grenades and water cannons to disperse a gathering of hospitality workers who were peacefully protesting against the current lockdown regulations that are crippling their industry. Several arrests were made. The hospitality, restaurant and tourism sectors have been severely affected by the new lockdown regulations with protests against government springing up across the country. Picture: EPA-EFE/NIC BOTHMA

While the accuracy of deaths and infections owed to Covid-19 continues to be debated, the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) has apparently recommended a 10pm curfew, the resumption of alcohol sale restrictions – from Monday to Thursday – and for pubs to close at 9pm was the best way forward, according to Restaurants of South Africa (Rasa) CEO, Wendy Alberts.

This is in light of identified hotspots in the Western Cape and Eastern Cape, following a sharp surge in cases in Nelson Mandela Bay, Sarah Baartman District and along the Garden Route. 

But as the method of keeping a second wave as minimally disastrous as possible is being figured out by authorities, various industries find themselves in a more economically uncertain space than just a few months ago. 

Specifically, the restaurant industry, which has been largely blamed for contributing to the resurgence of infections. 

However, this has been vehemently disputed by chief executive officer (CEO) of lobby group Restaurants of South Africa (RASA), Wendy Alberts.

“There is no evidence to suggest that we [the restaurant industry] are responsible for spreading it. 

“But no contact tracing has been done in the sector, and no authorities have come to collect our registers. No authorities have contacted any establishments to follow up. 

“Government needs to take responsibility and look at interventions, and work with the industry. Covid-19 will be here for long, but we can’t keep crippling our industry, our economy, and increase our state of despair. It’s just before the festive season, jobs are needed, and we need support from government,” she said. 

Alberts has disputed the action of enforcing another curfew, explaining that many restaurants were “barely coping right now”, and that the festive season was something many establishments were building up towards, to make extra cash. 

She said the curfew being enforced throughout the festive season would be devastating for restaurants, and that reservations had already begun pouring in. 

“We are doing what we can to be safe. We are showing responsibility, and government comes and destroys it. They need to work with us.” 

Alberts confirmed she fully supported Western Cape Premier Alan Winde’s stance on using localised interventions to slow the spread, instead of pushing for another lockdown. 

ALSO READ: Is the Western Cape heading for a Covid-19 ‘firebreak’ lockdown?

“We must first do everything else, through individual and collective action, to ensure the resurgence is rolled back and to prevent this tool from ever having to be used again. 

“A lockdown would be disastrous for our economy.”

Winde has advocated for the avoidance of crowds and any superspreader events, and insisted that interventions be based on “top scientific advice”. 

He has disagreed with the current permitted number of people allowed to gather indoors, which is at 250. Winde said this number was too high, adding that along with avoiding crowded areas, a “major behaviour change” was integral to curbing as many infections as possible. 

Final interventions expected to be conducted by the Western Cape would be made clearer on Thursday, Winde’s spokesperson Bianca Capazorio said.

“Being safe requires common sense and taking informed decisions,” Alberts continued.

“If you feel you’re vulnerable, you should not go outside. It’s not just about wearing masks, and you cannot blame the curfew.” 

Alberts said the shortening of curfews also ran the risk of “aggravating people to rebel against further restrictions”, and questioned the amount of awareness to “promote and uplift communities and people” being done by government. 

For Alberts, what has been done over the past nine months has not been enough. 

“Covid is not in restaurants, it’s in the entire country, and we need to trust government that their information is true. We need to trust that they have our best interests at heart. But they are not taking care of the restaurant industry or staff.” 

She said throughout the pandemic, the sector had not received “one drop of relief or compensation”.

For more news your way, download The Citizen’s app for iOS and Android.