Not practical to close Cape Town's beaches – it's an 'artificial crisis', says City's JP Smith

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JP Smith, City of Cape Town's mayoral committee member for safety and security.
JP Smith, City of Cape Town's mayoral committee member for safety and security.
Brenton Geach
  • Mayco member for safety and security JP Smith said limiting movement on beaches is an "artificial crisis" if people are not complying in their communities.
  • He argues that it would be "extremely difficult" to lock down Cape Town's 309km of coastline.
  • President Cyril Ramaphosa is set to address the nation on Covid-19 on Monday night.

Mission impossible – this is how Cape Town mayoral committee member for safety and security JP Smith describes enforcing a beach closure in Cape Town.

According to him, limiting movement on beaches is an "artificial crisis" if people are not complying with regulations in their communities.

Beach closures are, at this stage, not being considered in Cape Town, Smith said.

READ | Covid-19: SA officially enters second wave

"We're going to focus on encouraging social distancing and keeping numbers under control. We do not believe it's practical to close beaches."

The Eastern Cape provincial government on Sunday confirmed that it had taken a decision to close its beaches and parks because it "poses a huge risk of spreading infections", Premier Oscar Mabuyane's spokesperson Mvusiwekhaya Sicwetsha said.

This came days after the KwaZulu-Natal government resolved to shut down all beaches in the province - later, though, KZN Premier Sihle Zikalala clarified that his administration had opted to regulate beach use instead of closing beaches.

Difficult

Cape Town has 309km of coastline, which would be "extremely difficult" to lock down, Smith maintained.

In addition to the 46 different beach amenities, enforcement will be nearly impossible, Smith argued.

He said Cape Town's circumstances were different because other provinces had more "compacted" coastlines, in that the beach areas were shorter and easier to regulate.

WATCH | Crowd flouts Covid-19 rules at Cape Town concert

Executive director for safety and security Richard Bosman said the City had "fine-tuned [its] master plan over many years" and would be ready for the festive season.

"The closure of beaches is being discussed at a national level as part of the current disaster regulations and we await the outcome of those deliberations," he said.

Bosman believes that, weather permitting, Cape Town's beaches will "no doubt be extremely busy over the peak of the festive season".

Risk

"It is imperative that we keep Covid-19 and the risk of exposure top of mind in everything that we do this season. Boxing Day and New Year's Day are of particular concern as, historically, these are massive beach days, and we advise the public to exploit the additional days available to them over the peak festive season (Christmas and New Year's fall over weekends) to enjoy a day out with their families."

Alcohol is a major headache over the festive season, particularly drinking and driving, and its consumption on beaches and other public spaces, Bosman said.

"Our law enforcement staff will continue ensuring the safety of all visitors and enforcing the law, which includes the disaster regulations. We want to encourage visitors to adhere to safety protocols and be responsible, especially in public places."

Premier Alan Winde said beaches fall under a municipal mandate and each municipality would have to decide how they intend to manage their beaches this festive season.

"The City of Cape Town has indicated that they will be conducting enforcement and awareness drives at the City's beaches in order to ensure safety," he said.

"Among the interventions are 340 lifeguards deployed to beaches in the metro; radio interviews on busy beach days, giving live-updates on how busy beaches are and encouraging people to go to quieter beaches, if necessary; sky banners on all busy beach days and street pole posters on roads leading up to beaches; and social media safety campaigns."

He urged those visiting any public space to act responsibly by wearing a mask, practicing social distancing and avoiding large crowds and close contact with other people.

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