Level 3: A step too far or not far enough? Politicians react to easing of lockdown regulations

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  • Politicians have welcomed the easing of adjusted Level 3 lockdown regulations.
  • The new regulations, announced on Monday, will allow the reopening of beaches and the sale of alcohol.
  • President Cyril Ramaphosa said the easing of restrictions comes as the county had reached its lowest level of daily Covid-19 infections since December.

Politicians have welcomed the announcement by President Cyril Ramaphosa that adjusted Level 3 lockdown regulations will be eased.

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Ramaphosa announced on Monday night that, as a result of lowering daily Covid-19 infections, beaches and public spaces would reopen.

He also ended the ban on the sale of alcohol and announced a new curfew.

Cape Town Mayor Dan Plato said the easing of lockdown regulations will give the local tourism and hospitality industry a much-needed boost.

The DA has welcomed the lifting of "the nonsensical beach ban" and the easing of alcohol restrictions and curfew.

"However, these come too late to save hundreds of thousands of jobs and businesses in the tourism, restaurant and alcohol industries, which have been needlessly destroyed by our indiscriminate state," DA leader John Steenhuisen said on Monday night.

Local tourism

Steenhuisen said it was "crucial that we do everything possible now to protect our economy from further damage" and called for a further relaxation of restrictions.

"We call for the curfew to be lifted completely. Freedom of movement is a basic civil liberty and there is absolutely no justification for denying it. Those restaurants that haven't yet shut shop need all the trading hours they can get."

The new regulations will benefit the local tourism and hospitality industry, that has been under great strain due to the alcohol ban and the closure of beaches, Plato said.

"We welcome the lifting of the ban on the sale of alcohol as this will greatly assist those in the local tourism and hospitality sector after one of the most challenging festive seasons this sector has ever experienced. Thousands who rely on the tourism and hospitality sector, including those working in restaurants, at wine farms and other spaces, can now resume work."

He added that the reopening of beaches will enable residents to make use of these spaces safely for recreation and their mental well-being.

These sentiments were echoed by Western Cape Premier Alan Winde.

Winde said:

"Beaches and outdoor spaces like parks are safer, providing fresh air and ventilation. The closure of beaches over the December period had a devastating impact on tourism and on our ocean's economy in the Western Cape, costing the province in excess of R100 million every month."

While the EFF has welcomed the relaxation of some regulations, such as curfew, they disagree with the decision to allow alcohol sales.

"It is empirically proven that alcohol availability in different spaces leads to the rapid spread of the virus and always burdens the healthcare system. Relaxation of regulations governing the distribution and consumption of alcohol is therefore self-defeatist and will certainly lead to the resurgence of the virus," the party said in a statement.

The party added that the livelihood benefits of alcohol trade "are far outweighed by the negative healthcare" consequences.

The EFF said:

"The reopening of alcohol distribution and sale is reckless and Ramaphosa is doing so to please the alcohol manufacturing capitalist establishment, which has been threatening our country with disinvestment due to the correct decision to curtail the free flow of alcohol."

Freedom Front Plus leader Dr Pieter Groenewald said the new regulations were necessary, but the government could have relaxed the regulations even further.

"The move to a Level 1 lockdown could possibly have been made at this stage. The stringent measures have had an extremely negative impact on the economy and it could have been prevented if a generalised draconian approach to the lockdown was not followed."

However, Groenewald has dubbed some of the changes as "irrational", saying the size of church gatherings must be determined by venue capacity instead of a 50-person limit.

Good party secretary-general Brett Herron said while the restrictions have been effective, it should only remain in place as long as is necessary.

"Depriving people of their right to operate a lawful business is a drastic measure and no person should be deprived of their right to earn an income, operate a business or pursue their social and leisure interests for a moment longer than absolutely necessary," he said.

However, South Africans must do their part to prevent future restrictions and a third wave of infections, Herron said.

"The reopening of some alcohol trade, the relaxation of curfew hours and the opening of public amenities [are] important steps but we must do everything we can to avoid the reintroduction of restrictions when we are faced with the inevitable third wave," he said.

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