Restaurants, gyms can reopen today - but owners face jail if they break new level 4 rules

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 New regulations stipulate that owners and managers face fines and jail time if they don't adhere to health protocols and capacity limits.
New regulations stipulate that owners and managers face fines and jail time if they don't adhere to health protocols and capacity limits.
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  • Even as level 4 is extended for another two weeks, restaurants and gyms are allowed to open their doors again.
  • New regulations stipulate that owners and managers face fines and jail time if they don't adhere to health protocols and capacity limits. 
  • Casinos, cinemas and theatres must remain closed - but game auctions are now allowed.

In a surprise move, President Cyril Ramaphosa allowed restaurants and gyms to reopen as the country remained in level 4 of the national lockdown.

However, new regulations gazetted on Sunday night stipulate strict new limits on how many people can be accommodated.

Only 50 people or fewer may be allowed into restaurants and eateries, and if the venue is too small to keep them all at least one-and-a-half-metres apart from one another, no more than 50% of the normal capacity of the venue is allowed. There must also be a strict adherence to all of South Africa’s health protocols.

Owners or managers of a restaurant who fail to comply with these regulations face a fine or imprisonment for up to six months, the regulations stipulate. No alcohol may be sold.

Gyms, fitness centres and public swimming pools are subject to the same restrictions – only 50 people, or only 50% of the normal capacity if the venue is too small to keep them at least one-and-a-half-metres away from each other.

A curfew remains in place from 21:00 until 04:00. All non-essential establishments - including restaurants and gyms - need to close by by 20:00 to allow their staff to return home.

The new regulations confirm that gatherings at conferences, exhibitions, museums, libraries, cinemas, theatres, flea markets and bazaars remain closed – but agricultural and game auctions are now allowed.

Hotels, lodges, guest houses and other accommodation are still allowed to operate at full capacity, provided that visitors wear face masks and say at least one-and-a-half-metres from one another.

The restaurant industry has been among the worst affected during the pandemic. After having to close their doors at the end of March in 2020, they were allowed to open for takeaways in May. Only in mid-June could they open for sit-down meals, but recurring alcohol bans and continued hesitancy among patrons given the pandemic have starved them from income. Since the return to level 4, two weeks ago, they have only been allowed takeaways and deliveries.

The latest data from Statistics SA show that restaurants' income from food and beverages in February was still 30% below pre-pandemic levels. In January, their income was half that of the same month in 2020.

The new regulations are in place until 25 July.

The article has been updated to include the curfew for restaurants and gyms.

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