With certain businesses permitted to open their doors under the Level 4 lockdown regulations, thousands of workers in the Overstrand have been returning to work over the past few days and there has been a marked uptick in shopping activity in the region’s towns.
Many restaurants, offering delivery services, reported good support from the community (Read more here) and most retailers said there has been a noticeable increase in the number of people visiting shops.
And while this economic activity is but a drop in the ocean of our total economy, government has warned that it will keep a tight leash on both employers and customers.
Speaking at a news conference on Sunday 3 May, Minister of Employment and Labour Thulas Nxesi said returning to work did not mean it was “business as usual”, adding that he had issued a directive that sets out the measures that employers must take to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 in workplaces “and these, we must emphasise, are minimum measures”. (Read more here)
The raft of measures, some more sensible than others, must be implemented by businesses before they can reopen and, as the minister said, “failure to take the necessary measures to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 may result in criminal prosecution,” putting even more pressure on already anxious business owners.
Frieda Lloyd, Tourism Manager of the Cape Whale Coast, said in her estimation less than 30% of the region’s businesses fall in the category of those who are now allowed to trade. “With the wine, tourism and much of the construction industries still firmly under lockdown, it still tough going out there, especially for small businesses.
“What we have seen is that business owners have a desire to trade and several informal businesses, such as making cloth face masks or doing deliveries, have sprung up. While this is a good thing, we are all eagerly awaiting the time when other businesses can also come into operation,” said Lloyd.
Gideon Serfontein, chair of the Hermanus Business Chamber, said they welcome the opportunity for some businesses to resume trading. “We recognise the importance of this first step and look forward to further steps towards economic recovery. It is imperative for all of us to work together and support local businesses more than ever before.”
Clinton Lerm, chair of the Whale Coast Business & Community Forum, said the number of businesses allowed to trade is still not enough. “With tourism not likely to be able to trade until at least December, we are sure that many business owners would not be able to open their doors again. In addition, the relief measures by government are simply not enough to help businesses stay afloat.
“The best advice I have now, is for owners to take this time to work on strategies that will enable them to operate successfully once they reopen. There is no doubt that the business landscape will never be the same again and we have to adapt,” said Lerm.
But while the outlook for businesses remains grim, there was at least some good news for residents: the municipality announced that while beaches remain closed to the public, those living within in 5 km radius from the Fernkloof, Kleinmond and Rooiels nature reserves may make use of them for walking or jogging.
“The public may use the nature reserves during the time allocated for outdoor exercise for activities that the reserves have been declared for, but needs to ensure that they wear their face masks at all times and adhere to the strict social distancing measures. The Fernkloof Gardens will stay closed during Level 4,” the municipality said in a press release.
Several posts declaring that children are not allowed in shops have been doing the rounds on social media. According to Brig Donovan Heilbron, SAPS Cluster Commander for the Overberg, there is no regulation that enforces this. “Shop owners have the right to decide who may enter their stores, but there has been no directive from SAPS to shop owners saying that children are not allowed to be with their parents while shopping for essential supplies,” he said.