No on-site alcohol consumption at restaurants - and keep your mask on unless you eat or drink

Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane (Supplied)
Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane (Supplied)

While patrons will be allowed to consume on-site again at restaurants, fast food outlets and coffee shops, they will not be allowed to consume alcohol there. They will have to wear masks, except while eating or drinking.

No buffet-style meals will be allowed.

On the other hand, if you buy takeaways, you will be allowed to buy alcohol if it is sold and go and consume it off-site.

These were some of the details provided by Tourism Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane during a virtual media briefing on Friday in relation to adjusted lockdown regulations.

To date 2 540 small and medium size businesses in the tourism industry have already received assistance totalling R127 million from a special R200 million coronavirus relief fund introduced by the Department of Tourism.

The rest of the funding is still in the process of being paid out.

As for a special fund started for tourist guides, the department has not yet paid out anything yet. It is still in the process of verifying information to make sure individuals who already qualify for UIF relief, are excluded.

"The intention is to ensure that all South Africans are protected, both as individuals as well as a society as a whole," said Kubayi-Ngubane.

She said accommodation for people attending conferences will be allowed for business travel but accommodation for leisure travel is not.

"You cannot go and book yourself and your family or friends into a hotel for the weekend," she explained.

Self-drive leisure activities will, however, be allowed, but only within a province and depending on whether there are not perhaps other specific hotspot regulations in place for an area.

"We are taking it one step at a time. I understand the importance of opening up the tourism sector again, but we are not blind to the challenges we face. There is an aggressive pandemic and we need to find a point where we can flatten the curve of infections," she said.

"We need to work together in the tourism sector to be able to manage the pandemic. We also look at what tourism industries do in other countries opening up after lockdowns and we hope we will see in coming months that more and more tourism activities can restart. We are aware that many people are losing their jobs, but we have a pandemic to fight against."

She encouraged South Africans to go out and support businesses like restaurants, but to do so responsibly.

"We would not have reached this level of reopening the industry if we in the tourism sector did not work together like it did. We had many online meetings and looked at all the protocols needed to put in place," she said. "We will do tourism again, but until then, let us stay safe."

According to Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa, CEO of private sector industry body the Tourism Business Council of SA (TBCSA), it will be hard for restaurants to trade sustainably if they cannot sell alcohol for on-site consumption. He expects that many will simply feel it is not worth opening for sit-down under these conditions.

He also cannot understand while tourism accommodation establishments cannot also be opened for leisure travellers.

"What is the difference between someone staying in a place for business or for leisure purposes?" he asks.

He would also like to see travel being allowed between provinces.

"Jobs are still being shed and there are massive retrenchments. Tourism businesses are still very much in the same place they were before," he commented.

The TBCSA has warned in the past that as many as 600 000 direct tourism jobs could be lost in SA in 2020 alone if the industry is not allowed to open up - even at a phased-in approach - as soon as possible.

The TBCSA estimates that more than R68 billion in tourism spend has been lost since SA's national lockdown began at the end of March.

Over 250 000 employees within the tourism value chain applied for the UIF TERS program in April and May and this is expected to double when the June application opens. Roughly 49 000 SMMEs are already negatively affected and many will close shop, according to the TBCSA.

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