As the festive season approaches, it is critical that “we do not become the architects of our own undoing”, said Pres Cyril Ramaphosa in his weekly letter to the nation on Monday 9 November.
With tourism, one of the biggest contributors to our local economy, still under severe pressure the president’s words ring especially true for the Overstand, according to Frieda Lloyd, Tourism Manager for the Cape Whale Coast.
“While we are cautiously optimistic about the increase in the number of tourists, we must remember that we are still quite a way removed from the numbers we normally see, especially during this time of year. Almost all the tourists now are from the Western Cape or neighbouring provinces and there are very few international tourists. Therefore a large chunk of the income we would normally see will not realise this year. The effects of the pandemic are still very much a reality in our towns, despite the relatively low numbers of infections,” she said.
“Over the weekend the Overstrand had a total 41 active cases and the Overberg 81 cases. But as can be seen in KwaZulu-Natal and in George, it takes truly little for a spike in new infections to occur and should that happen here it will be devastating to our economy,” Lloyd said.
In his weekly letter, the president said that “the greatest vigilance” is required from all citizens to keep the virus at bay. “A resurgence at any scale will not just dramatically reverse our health gains. It will choke the green shoots of economic recovery that have emerged and take us back from spring to winter. To prevent a second wave of Covid-19 infections, we must observe the public health guidelines that remain in place. When we fail to wear a mask at a social gathering, when we attend crowded events, we are not only putting ourselves and others at risk. We are also putting our economic recovery in jeopardy.”
Lloyd said while the Overstrand is known for its beaches, activities, restaurants and wine farms, a sudden rise in Covid-19 infections will put even more strain on already struggling businesses. “We are fortunate that most of our businesses have thus far survived and that there has been a steady influx of tourists. But should tougher restrictions be put back into place, it is a certainty that we will have business casualties that would negatively impact our towns.”
Lloyd called on all residents, tourists, and businesses to strictly adhere to the safety measures. “Everyone who enjoys an outing in our towns, whether it be for shopping, a wine tasting or eating in a restaurant, must remember that they have a personal responsibility towards everyone else. It is up to everyone to ensure that they stay safe and keep those around them safe. Especially in restaurants, people need to remember that social distancing must be practised and for the sake of the staff and the other guests, please keep those masks on when you are not eating. Our businesses are doing their level best to stick to the rules, so please respect their efforts.
We still have to make sacrifices
“In order for us to have the booming festive season that we so desperately need, we have to accept that there are some sacrifices we need to make. We have been bombarded with negative news regarding the Coronavirus for so long that it seems we forget the real and present danger it still poses. None of us want to be labelled a ‘Karen’ but when you find yourself in a situation where you feel uncomfortable or where the rules are openly flouted, speak up, for the sake of us all,” said Frieda.
Pres Ramaphosa said even as most social and economic activity has resumed, we must still observe all the health measures. “This is absolutely necessary if we are to rebuild our economy and put this crisis behind us.”
The president will brief the nation this week on the country’s strategy around the coronavirus pandemic. Minister in the Presidency, Jackson Mthembu said last week that the briefing will be based on a cabinet meeting and suggestions provided by the National Coronavirus Command Council.
Mthembu said the Cabinet is concerned that South Africans have grown increasingly indifferent in their response to the pandemic and are no longer following lockdown regulations. “Cabinet is concerned that some people are behaving recklessly and irresponsibly as if Covid-19 no longer exists. Cabinet calls on all people in South Africa to continue adhering to the health protocols of practising social distancing, wearing masks in public, washing our hands with water and soap or an alcohol-based sanitiser, and avoiding large gatherings,” he said.
Health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize said that all provinces remain on high alert for a possible Covid-19 resurgence. He said last week that the country has successfully curbed its ‘plateau’ of Covid-19 cases but warned that there are indications of ‘cluster outbreaks’ and a slight increase in cases in certain hotspot areas.
The health minister also warned of exhaustion and fatigue among the country’s frontline health workers. “A possible resurgence could be made worse by the two factors above,” he said. “A delay in obtaining an effective (Covid-19) vaccine also keeps us vulnerable.”
South Africa reported 1 372 new Covid-19 cases on Sunday (8 November), taking the total reported cases to 737 278. Deaths have reached 19 809, a daily increase of 20, while recoveries climbed to 679 688, leaving the country with a balance of 37 781 active cases.