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City like a ghost town


“Currently the concern is not only about how much money the businesses are losing but another worrying factor is the payment of staff salaries.”

WITH 240 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in South Africa, some residents and businesses in Kimberley adhered to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s call for social distancing/isolation.

The inner city looked almost like a ghost town on the weekend with very few people spotted on the streets.

As part of new regulations, liquor outlets and clubs also closed their doors by midday.

There have been no reported cases of coronavirus in the Northern Cape and residents are hoping that it will stay that way.

Those who were spotted outdoors on the weekend indicated that their reason for doing so was not about social interaction.

“I quickly had to get some groceries from the shops. One can see that people are scared to come out due to this coronavirus. I was also afraid but had no choice as one has to eat and our food supply does not last very long now that the schools are closed. Most people are also urged to work from home so we have to stock up on the essentials,” said one city resident, Robert Mothibi.

He added that he felt a bit of relief when he saw that many stores had taken the necessary precautionary measures to ensure the safety of shoppers.

“As one enters the stores, the security urges one to sanitise your hands and the shopping trolleys. I have not seen anyone who is too lazy or just rebelling against this cause. I think everyone understands the seriousness of this matter.”

Mothibi indicated that the quiet streets and the fact that there were only a few shoppers helped ease the “shopping stress”.

“The up side of this matter is that one does not have to wait in long queues before making it to the till point. There are literally no lines and shopping is done within a few minutes. No more pushing and shoving when you shop,” he chuckled.

Business owners and taxi operators, however, indicated that the current situation has negatively impacted their income.

The owner of Rio Cocktail Lounge and Booker T Lounge, Khindo Visser, said that his businesses are adhering to the instructions from government, but added that it is a very dark time for business owners.

“We have to respect and follow the instructions stipulated by the president in order to curb the speed of coronavirus. However, what we are going through as business is unfortunate and painful. One cannot, on the other hand, regard money as more important than human life and health. There is no price tag for that once you lose it. As a business owner I have to take into account the health and safety of all my employees,” said Visser.

He pointed out that he has had to change his trading hours.

“I employ almost 50 people at both my businesses combined. Together with the staff, we took a decision not to operate on weekends when the new liquor trading times were announced. We decided that we would only operate on weekdays. It made no sense for us to operate on weekends as we by now know that our clients only come in later at night. Operating until 6pm on a weekend would make us no profit.”

Visser said that although he has not yet made any calculations on how much losses he has sustained due to the new regulations, he knows that his businesses have suffered a major blow.

“Currently the concern is not only about how much money the businesses are losing but another worrying factor is the payment of staff salaries. We are dependent on certain trading ho”urs and these new regulations have put serious strain on us,” he said.

Local taxi operators indicated that they have also already felt the pinch.

“There are not so many people commuting from the designated areas in the city as people are afraid of contracting the virus. Our trips are now less and more vehicles are left standing idle at the taxi ranks. We used to go up and down several times, but now with the limited number of people who are going shopping or to work we also have a limited number of trips we have to do. Unfortunately, the taxi industry is not one where one can work in isolation. Our work requires us to interact with people on a daily basis. Currently, all we can do is take the necessary precautions to ensure that we do not add to the number of infected people,” one taxi operator pointed out.

The CEO of the Northern Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Nocci), Sharon Steyn stated that these are difficult and stressful times for businesses.

“This problem can kill business. It is business that keeps the economy going. Economically we are in dire straits. We understand and oblige to the call that was made by the president but this is a double-edged sword for business owners. Owners not only have to be responsible for their own health and that of their staff but they also have the responsibility of keeping the economy in good flow. There are already limitations stipulated on how and when businesses should operate and this has serious financial implications on the owner of the businesses,” said Steyn.

She added that she foresees darker days ahead if the matter is not resolved soon.

“People are advised to remain in social isolation. That means we cannot go to places in heavy numbers. Many businesses are social gathering places where people go to unwind. It is worrying to think about how those businesses will survive. Some businesses require owners to interact with clients in person. There are so many factors to consider when such limitations are stipulated. Everyone’s greatest fear is that the entire country will be placed under lockdown. One cannot even perceive what will happen then. All we can do as a country is to stand together and hope this thing passes soon.”

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