Home South African Calls for Ramaphosa to reconsider decision to close Garden Route beaches

Calls for Ramaphosa to reconsider decision to close Garden Route beaches

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Arguing that there is good ventilation on beaches, Premier Alan Winde doesn’t believe the right balance has been achieved in saving lives and jobs in this instance.

File picture: David Ritchie/African News Agency (ANA)

PREMIER Alan Winde wants President Cyril Ramaphosa to reconsider his decision to close Garden Route beaches for the entire festive season, fearing the loss of jobs and the devastating effect it would have on the district’s economy.

Announcing further lockdown Level 1 restrictions last night, Ramaphosa said one of the greatest challenges is the huge number of people flocking to beaches. The beaches and public parks of the Western Cape, with the exception of the Garden Route, will remain open to the public over the festive season.

Arguing that there is good ventilation on beaches, and provided proper steps are taken to ensure health and safety guidelines are followed, Winde doesn’t believe the right balance has been achieved in saving lives and jobs.

Winde also intends to enquire why sales at wine farms have been limited to Saturdays on weekends, believing it makes no sense excluding Sundays, as wine tourism is highly dependent on weekend revenue.

“We welcome the differentiated approach adopted by the President, but the decision to close Garden Route beaches for the entire festive season will deal a devastating blow to our economy and needs to be reconsidered,” Winde said in a statement on Tuesday.

’’My top priority in the numerous consultations with the national government has been to ensure that we get the balance right between rolling back this resurgence and saving lives, while keeping the economy as open as possible, also saving livelihoods.

’’It is important to always remember that jobs are not just nice-to-haves that can just be sacrificed at the drop of a hat. They are the difference between putting food on the table, and starving, for many people in our province and country.

’’And when people lose their jobs, a second pandemic of hunger, poverty and inequality starts to also gain momentum.

’’At the same time, we can’t sit back and do nothing in response to a pandemic that is costing the lives of our grandparents and parents, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles. We have to protect our health system and save lives, because every life matters.

’’That is why we have opposed blunt instruments such as lockdowns and argued instead for a differentiated approach, underpinned by science and evidence. It is also why we have invested in our health system so that it functions properly, providing the best public healthcare in the country.

’’In an unprecedented crisis such as the one we are facing, it is important that we strive to get this balance right.

’’I therefore welcome that President Ramaphosa pursued a differentiated approach when responding to the second wave, avoiding a blunt lockdown. I also welcome that he considered the detailed plans and submissions that our government provided to him.

’’These submitted plans included a request for the number of people being permitted to gather being reduced, given the clear scientific evidence in support of it, the increased enforcement of existing level 1 regulations and the introduction of consequences.

’’This is important to affect the behaviour change needed that will slow the spread, without resulting in job losses, and we welcome that it was adopted.

’’Our submissions also included making an exception for tastings and sales at wine farms over the weekend, as this is critical to the survival of the wine tourism economy which employs thousands of people in our rural communities.

’’In the President’s address last night this was announced, but we are concerned that the regulations issued subsequently now limit the sale to Saturdays only.

’’This doesn’t make any sense, as there is no difference between a Saturday and Sunday for this industry, and this limitation will undermine wine tourism which is highly dependent on weekends.

’’We will be following up immediately to understand why this change was introduced in the regulations.

’’While I also welcome that a differentiated approach was adopted for most of the Western Cape’s beaches, the decision to close the Garden Route’s beaches for the entire festive season will deal a devastating blow to that district’s economy which is highly reliant on tourism for survival. This will result in major job losses and is of great concern to me.

’’Our position, as presented during consultations, remains that beaches in the Western Cape should remain open, provided proper steps can be taken to ensure health and safety guidelines are followed so that those who attend are safe.

’’This is especially because they are outdoors where there is good ventilation – precisely the places we have been advising our residents to visit this festive season.

’’We will therefore be making further submissions to the National Government as we don’t believe the right balance has been achieved in this case and this intervention needs to be reconsidered.

’’The Western Cape government will also continue to work with the private sector and health professionals in monitoring the impact of all these additional restrictions, and when there is an opportunity to motivate for changes to them, we will continue to engage with the President and national ministers. We especially believe that restrictions should be reviewed regularly so that they can be removed as soon as possible.

’’In the meantime, we must all remember that the best defence we have against Covid-19, and the most effective tool we have to save both lives and livelihoods, is our own behaviour.

’’If we all take action right now and change the way we live for the rest of the festive season, we can prevent many infections, protect our healthcare system, save lives and keep our economy open. We can’t afford any more restrictions.

’’This must be our priority right now. I know that we can do it if we all rally together to keep the Western Cape safe, open and moving forward.’’