- Eastern Cape Premier Oscar Mabuyane has notified the national government of a decision to close beaches and parks during the festive season.
- High volumes of people have visited the province's beaches over the period - something which, in the provincial government's view, could encourage the spread of Covid-19.
- The province is also suggesting closures in other coastal provinces after KwaZulu-Natal made a similar request.
Eastern Cape Premier Oscar Mabuyane is in talks with the national government about a decision to close beaches and parks during the festive season, and neighbouring province KwaZulu-Natal recently made a similar request.
Mabuyane is expected to raise the decision, which he has already communicated to the national government, at a joint meeting on Sunday.
"The leadership of the Eastern Cape government and its municipalities took a decision to close beaches and parks during this time because these places pose a huge risk of spreading infections," said Mabuyane's spokesperson, Mvusiwekhaya Sicwetsha.
The decision followed an influx of holidaymakers to beaches in the province over the festive season, Sicwetsha added.
"Allowing swimming at this time, during virus pandemic, will create huge problems. We have seen high numbers [at] our beaches during this time and we have a duty to protect [the] lives of the people of [the] province. We are doing this to protect lives. We believe this is good for preventing the spread of the virus," he said.
The provincial government hopes to close the province's beaches with immediate effect, according to Sicwetsha.
"We are in December now and our wish is that we should, if we agree with national government, make it immediate."
The call for beach closures echoes one made in KwaZulu-Natal last week.
The KwaZulu-Natal government resolved to shut down all beaches in the province, but Premier Sihle Zikalala later said the matter was under discussion with the national government and had not been resolved.
This was due to a debate on whether or not the use of beaches should be permitted and only swimming prohibited.
Zikalala said the provincial government had opted to regulate beach use instead of closing beaches.
Sicwetsha added that the move to engage with the national government was also to suggest that beach closures become a "national decision", which would then automatically include all coastal provinces.
"What happens in these two provinces affect us and what happens in the Eastern Cape affects these two provinces. And even other provinces could be affected if you look at outward migration of people from the Eastern Cape to places like Gauteng, the North West, the Free State and he Northern Cape," Sicwetsha said.
Sicwetsha added that the provincial government would also consider new measures on funerals because some Covid-19 cases stemmed from funerals.
"While we appreciate that people wear masks, we are concerned about what happens in the days leading to funeral services where there is a lot of cooking. In the culinary space, there is a lot items that exchange hands amongst people preparing food and slaughtering. This, together with food distribution during funeral services, is favourable to infections. We would [like] to find a mechanism that will reduce this risk."