Last week, restaurants were told that they would soon be allowed to open along with personal care services such as tattoo studios or salons.

But while personal care services have been able to operate since last week following the publication of protocols that sector should observe, operating a restaurant, casino, theatre or cinema is still a murky endeavour.

To add even greater insult to injury, amendments to the Disaster Management Act published late on Thursday evening explicitly gives the aforementioned sectors permission to operate.

The trouble is the how.

Amendments to Regulation 37 state that, “all gatherings are prohibited except a gathering at restaurants, subject to the strict adherence to all health protocols and social distancing measures as provided for in directions that must be issued by the responsible Cabinet member, after consultation with the Cabinet member responsible for health.”

The same statement is made for cinemas, theatres and casinos.

Aside from limiting customers to 50 patrons at a time, however, there is no guidance on what protocols to observe and according to the regulations the, “responsible Cabinet member” must announce these protocols.

So who is the Cabinet member responsible for this? That would be Minister of Tourism, Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane.

Heading over to the Department of Tourism’s website we found no word on the health protocols or social distancing measures mentioned in the amendments. The latest statement published on the site is from 30th May.

The same goes for cinemas, theatres and casinos which, under these amendments, are all allowed to operate and yet there is no word from government as to the how.

The issue at hand is that without knowing how to open so as to comply with regulations, businesses cannot open and that puts owners, employees and suppliers at risk of economic loss.

Earlier this week chief executive officer of the Restaurants Association of South Africa, Wendy Alberts pleaded with the Department of Tourism.

“Give us clarification on what the delay is and when we will open the industry and what is happening? Because every day we delay in opening we are faced with many more fatalities and causalities within the restaurant industry,” Alberts wrote in a letter seen by EWN.

The CEO reportedly submitted protocols it believes are fair but has yet to hear from government.

We understand that we are living in unprecedented times but government should really co-ordinate itself a bit better, especially when business owners and employees have been waiting months for the opportunity to reopen.

We now wait in anticipation for the safety protocols cinemas, casinos, restaurants and theatres must adhere to but we hope that government acts sooner rather than later as everyday that passes without being able to operate brings these businesses a day closer to death.

You can find the Disaster Management Act amendments at this URL.

[Image – CC 0 Pixabay]