The much-anticipated long weekend delivered the boost that our local economy so desperately needed. With thousands of domestic tourists, mainly from across the mountain, streaming into our towns, business proprietors were smiling from ear to ear.

“The weather played its part and delivered both bright sunny and cold rainy days, making it perfect for visitors to enjoy the multitude of outdoor activities, including whale-watching tours, as well as visiting our cosy restaurants and shops while it rained,” said Cape Whale Coast Tourism Manager, Frieda Lloyd.

According to her, many accommodation establishments, restrictions permitting, were fully booked for the weekend. “Rural areas such as Stanford had an exceptional weekend as it seems that many tourists prefer the great outdoors where social distancing is easy. All the various markets in our towns reported a busy trading weekend and on Monday the Fernkloof Nature Reserve was awash with people heading into the mountains under clear, sunny skies.”

Restaurateur Rudolf van der Berg of Burgundy said his turnover was about 70% compared to the long weekend in 2019. “Under the circumstances I am elated,” he said. Emilia Knight, owner of The Gallery Café & Deli Food Store said she also experienced a frenzied weekend. “There were streams of customers and I had my best weekend ever. We were even busier than we’d been in December,” she said.

Clinton Lerm of Forest Adventures echoed this sentiment. “The sunny weather lured people outside to enjoy all of the activities on offer.”

The welcome economic injection comes at a time when Covid-19 cases are declining, and all indications are that the Western Cape has passed its peak of infections, to the extent that the provincial government will soon be considering whether all field hospitals need to remain open. On Monday there were 8 371 active cases of Covid-19, with a total of 98 656 confirmed cases and 86 861 recoveries in the province. The Overstrand was at 1 416 cases with 1 291 recoveries.

On Thursday, the Western Cape Government Cabinet met to discuss the devastating economic impact the pandemic has had on the province. “While we are seeing an easing on our health resources, unemployment is gaining momentum in our province. Businesses, which employ tens of thousands of people, are buckling under continued restrictions on economic activity, low confidence, and reduced demand,” said Western Cape Premier Alan Winde.

It is estimated that the province will lose 10.2% in Gross Value Add, R720 million in revenue, and a staggering 167 000 jobs. “For many people in our province and country, a job is the difference between putting food on the table and starving. This is not an exaggeration, but a reality in our country,” he said.

Given the Western Cape’s capacity to respond to Covid-19, the fact that the province has passed its peak, and that measures are in place to support businesses so that they can re-open safely, the Cabinet resolved that there remains no rational reason to keep businesses closed. In addition, the Cabinet was of the opinion that, given the dire consequences that the blanket ban on the sale of alcohol is having on the livelihoods of people, it can no longer support the continued suspension on the domestic sale of alcohol in the province.

“For as long as the Western Cape can assure access to health facilities for all Covid-19 patients, the temporary ban should be lifted immediately, in conjunction with the implementation of smart interventions to curb the negative impacts of alcohol over the medium to long term,” said Winde.

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