President Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcement on Sunday – South Africa’s move to adjusted lockdown level 2 with relaxed curfew hours – contains a shimmer of hope for the struggling hospitality sector.
Level 2’s nuggets of hope
The changes announced on Sunday will be reviewed in two weeks’ time. Then, depending on the state of the pandemic, protocols will be adjusted as needed.
As per the new protocols, curfew will be in place from 11pm to 4am. Experts say the extra hour “implies restaurants and bars will need to close at 10pm”, allowing patrons and staff to return home in time.
“The additional hour of trading should provide some relief to the struggling hospitality sector”, according to the Bureau for Economic Research’s (BER’s) weekly forecast.
Off-site alcohol sales will now be permitted for an extra day of the week: from Mondays to Fridays between 10am to 6pm.
Alcohol sales for on-site consumption will be permitted as per licence conditions up to 10pm. Unfortunately, weekend sales are still prohibited, as is the consumption of alcohol in public spaces.
While the liquor sector for the most part supported Ramaphosa’s announcement, a few preliminary concerns have been pointed out.
The South African Liquor Brand owners Association (Salba) said the 11pm curfew was a positive step but noted with concern the continuation of the prohibition of off-site consumption sales on weekends.
Boost for hospitality sector
Anderson said while government has to tread a “delicate balancing act” in saving lives and securing livelihoods, the hospitality sector “continues to bear the brunt of curfews [and] liquor bans”.
She said many businesses would be forced to halt operations if lockdown protocols remained in place. She said South Africans needed assurance that there would be no further shutdowns or restrictions.
“We need assurances […] so travellers can book flights and accommodation with confidence, secure in the knowledge that they will be able to […] enjoy our wonderful food, wines, beers and malts.”
Elections a risk
The BER said the relaxed restrictions with regards to gatherings posed a risk as well. While funeral attendance remains limited to 50 people, indoor and outdoor restrictions are more flexible.
The limit for indoor events was raised from 50 to 250, while the limit was increased from 100 to 500 for outdoor gatherings. However, this will be an issue during elections, experts say.
“With electioneering before the 1 November municipal elections now set to ramp up, this does pose a risk for new infections.”