Tourism Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane on Tuesday wrote to restaurants which have been flouting Covid-19 alert level 2 regulations announced by the government, urging them to desist.
In a statement, Kubayi-Ngubane’s spokesperson Hlengiwe Nhlabathi-Mokota said the tourism department had received several complaints about the breaking of rules, particularly the sale of takeaway alcohol and non-adherence to physical distancing protocols.
“We have received numerous complaints from ordinary law-abiding citizens, other operators and employees about the situation in these restaurants,” Nhlabathi-Mokota said.
“This practice of disregarding the regulations, directions and protocols reportedly include practices such as restaurants operating during curfew, offering takeaway alcohol and none adherence to social distancing or wearing of masks as required by law amongst other violations.”
“This does not only risk these businesses licenses but also endangering the safety of their loyal customers and dedicated workers,” Nhlabathi-Mokota said.
In her letter the minister appealed for restaurants’ co-operation “as the sector cannot risk having any of our hard-earned gains made thus far reversed as this will have devastating impact on the recovery of the sector”, the spokeswoman added.
Last month, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that South Africa was moving to level 2 as the government gradually eased lockdown regulations imposed at level 5 from March 27.
While upbeat about the country’s progress in fighting the spread of Covid-19, Ramaphosa cautioned South Africans not to let their guard down and to continue taking all prescribed precautions.
“As we continue to ease restrictions, the risk of infection does not diminish. In fact, the risk of infection becomes greater as more people return to work, as they move about more and as there are more opportunities to interact,” the president said at the time.
“We therefore cannot become complacent or abandon the health precautions that we know we need to take.”
Under level 2, all restrictions on inter-provincial travel were lifted while accommodation and hospitality venues as well as tours were allowed to resume operating within approved protocols.
On Monday, Kubayi-Ngubane said the South African government was working towards the reopening of international travel, which has been put on ice for months in a bid to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
“Our next step is to work towards the reopening of international travel. With the risk of the virus spread on a downward trend, we are hopeful that the opening of our borders will happen sooner than we are expecting,” Kubayi-Ngubane told delegates as she launched Tourism Month in Cullinan, east of the capital Pretoria.
However, she emphasised that dates for the resumption of international travel would be determined on the existing level of risk as assessed by the country’s experts.
“In terms of demand stimulation, our short-term focus, for now, will be on domestic tourism. We believe that domestic tourism, South Africans travelling and getting to know their own country, can drive market demand to unprecedented levels. Indeed, we had envisaged that domestic tourism will be the first pillar upon which the tourism recovery will kick-start,” she said.
During the month of September, Kubayi-Ngubane said, her department would drive an extensive domestic tourism campaign aimed at getting South Africans to travel and explore the splendour of their country responsibly, under the guidance of the health and safety protocols.
The series of Tourism Month events launched on Monday will culminate in the celebration of World Tourism Day on September 27. The major celebration will be hosted in Gauteng province.