'Irrational' to close beaches - opposition parties lash out at restrictions

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Many people have crowded Durban beaches without wearing masks.
Many people have crowded Durban beaches without wearing masks.
Kaveel Singh
  • Opposition parties are not happy that government has decided to close certain beaches during the festive season.
  • Both the DA and FF Plus called the decision "irrational".
  • South Africa is in the midst of a second wave of Covid-19 infections, partly owing to people's indifference to Covid-19 prevention measures.

Opposition parties voiced their distinct displeasure at President Cyril Ramaphosa's dramatic announcement on Monday that all beaches in the Eastern Cape and along the Garden Route will be closed during the festive season, and that KwaZulu-Natal beaches will be closed on certain busy days.

Ramaphosa addressed the nation on Monday night on the latest lockdown measures following sharp increases in the spread of Covid-19, especially in the Eastern Cape and Western Cape.

The president berated South Africans for not adhering to Covid-19 protocols.

"We no longer see the point of avoiding crowded venues, or standing more than 1.5 metres from each other, or keeping windows open when travelling on public transport or sanitising [in] commonly used places.

"We have got into the Christmas spirit early and are inviting friends and family over for get-togethers.

"Yet, it is our failure to closely adhere to all these basic precautions at all times that has brought us to this second wave."

The DA was first to react, saying it does not support Ramaphosa's announcement that certain beaches and public parks across the country will be closed for the duration of the festive season.

Impossible to enforce

"This announcement goes against the scientific advice and recommendations made by medical experts such as Dr Angelique Coetzee and Professor Salim Abdool Karim and will be impossible to enforce," DA leader John Steenhuisen said.

"This restriction is irrational and will spell disaster for the hospitality and tourism industries. Ultimately, it will be the fatal blow to tourism for coastal economies, bringing more economic turmoil to coastal communities.

"We note President Ramaphosa's announcement of the stricter enforcement of Level 1 restrictions and the reduction in the number of people permitted to attend indoor and outdoor events. We agree that this is a necessary step to curb the spread of Covid-19 over the festive period and we agree that South Africans must take individual responsibility to curb the spread of the virus during this time.

READ | Lockdown: Ramaphosa announces longer curfew to prevent super-spreader events

"We also note the compromise made with regards to the national curfew. While this curfew is later than anticipated, it is still unworkable for many in the restaurant business and will drastically shave off cash flow to establishments across the country.

"But ultimately, we have to ask ourselves what South Africa has achieved after almost a year of lockdown," Steenhuisen said.

He said:

Almost a year later, having decimated our economy, killed nearly half of all small business in the country and forced millions into poverty, South Africa is no better off at dealing with this pandemic than we were a year ago. There is no extensive public health response and our dilapidated health system continues to buckle under the pressure of Covid-19.

'Long-term price'

Steenhuisen said nine months after Ramaphosa promised "an extensive public health response", South Africans were still being told when and where they can go and what they may or may not do at a time when they should be able to come together safely and freely.

"This is the long-term price we have to pay for the ANC's decimation of our public health system."

The Freedom Front (FF) Plus also slammed the decision to close beaches.

"It is irrational to close all the beaches in the Eastern Cape and the Garden Route so late in the festive season. The beaches should only have been closed on days that are traditionally very busy – as is the case for KwaZulu-Natal," FF Plus leader Pieter Groenewald said.

"The announcement will cause major disruption for many holidaymakers. The ban on the consumption of alcohol on beaches is welcomed as it is a rational restriction. Furthermore, it does not make sense that screening is no longer done at airports," Groenewald said.

Announcement too late

He added that the ANC government was finally implementing the lockdown model the FF Plus had been advocating, which aims to both limit the spread of Covid-19 and protect the economy.

"This announcement could, however, have been made earlier as millions of people have already made their arrangements for the holidays," Groenewald said.

"The Covid-19 virus is a reality that is taking lives and, therefore, all the necessary health and safety measures and protocols must be enforced. This must, however, be done while balancing the economy and people's safety."

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