Eastern Cape pays the price as beach ban is imposed

15 December 2020 - 11:02
By John Harvey and Bhongo Jacob
Signs posted at Nahoon in East London informing locals that the beach is closed.
Image: MARK ANDREWS Signs posted at Nahoon in East London informing locals that the beach is closed.

The coming holiday season will be unlike any other for Eastern Cape residents as beaches will remain closed to the public and alcohol sales will be severely curtailed over the Christmas and New Year period.

Despite repeated warnings, many South Africans have failed to adhere to Covid-19 regulations culminating in President Cyril Ramaphosa's announcement on Monday night of tough measures to mitigate the effect of the virus' second wave.

These include a 11pm to 4am curfew that will also apply to Christmas and New Year. Restaurants and taverns will, however, be allowed to remain open to 10pm.

“Non-essential establishments, including restaurants and bars, will have to close at 10pm so that staff and patrons can go home before the enforcement of the curfew. The curfew is meant to prevent gatherings that go on late into the night, while enabling rest bar and taverns to continue to operate,” he said.

The Eastern Cape and Garden Route have been SA's Covid-19 hotspots for several weeks already, and they have now paid the price.

Between December 16 and January 3, all beaches in these areas, including Buffalo City, will be closed. The Sarah Baartman district also is now officially a Covid-19 hotspot.  

On Monday morning, members of Buffalo City Metro's command centre confirmed that the municipality is leading in the province in terms of new Covid infections.

A total of 143 people have lost their lives since the centre's last update on December 7, moving the total number of fatalities in the metro to 1,184.

But the Eastern Cape is not alone in terms of other harsh restrictions. Those to be rolled out nationally include:

  • alcohol sales may only occur between 10am and 6pm from Monday to Thursday;
  • gatherings, including religious gatherings, may not be attended by more than 100 people indoors or 250 people outdoors;
  • employers and managers and owners of buildings have to ensure that all visitors, customers and employees wear masks at all times of face fines or imprisonment of up to six months;
  • all post-funeral events are prohibited; and
  • alcohol consumption in all public places strictly prohibited.

“These restrictions will be reviewed in early January. We have sought to balance the need to save lives and protect livelihoods,” Ramaphosa said.  

Beaches in the Western Cape, save for the Garden Route, will remain open. In KwaZulu-Natal, beaches will be closed on popular holidays including December 16, 25, 26 and 31 as well as January 1, 2, 3.

Ramaphosa took particular aim at younger people flouting Covid-19 regulations at events like matric rages.  

“It is said that up to 300 families could be infected from the Rage Festivals [in KwaZulu-Natal]. Concerts and parties are proving to be sources of infection, illness and even death,” he said.  

“The festive season now poses the greatest threat to our wellbeing and economy. During Easter we were able to limit the number of infections because we remained disciplined. I would like us to remember that period. Just as we did during Easter, we need to observe basic health protocols.

Unless we do things different, this will be the last Christmas for many South Africans.”

One brighter aspect of Ramaphosa's address was that SA expected to receive initial vaccine rollouts through the World Health Organisation's Covax vaccine programme early next year. This would impact about 10% of the country's population.   

Earlier on Monday, the SA Council of Churches at a press briefing in East London said that 110 compliancy officers had been hired through NGO Right to Care to monitor churches, traditional ceremonies and related events this festive season.

The council's Eastern Cape president, Rev Lulama Ntshingwa, said compliancy officers would be deployed in hotspot areas across the province.

“They will report anyone found breaking the laws to the police. We have and still continue to journey together with our people on this treacherous and tiring journey.”