Beachgoers along the Garden Route took time out on Tuesday to enjoy their last few hours in the sun and sea, before new lockdown restrictions kick in on Wednesday.
The region is one of three COVID-19 hotspots in the country, and its beaches and public parks will close until the 3rd of January.
This past weekend, a further 38 people died from the virus in the Garden Route. This tourism mecca sees thousands flock here each year.
Many people, like Veronica Mgibe, believe it was a harsh decision to close the beaches. “I just feel that it’s so unfair, especially if they maybe close down liquor stores and all that I could have understood. But now the beach. They could have maybe had more stricter restrictions regarding the beach. Not just totally close it down. I just feel it’s not right.”
Many businesses that are dependent on the beach crowd during this peak season will be affected.
Michael De Wet, who runs a surfing shop in Victoria Bay, says, “Anybody who runs a business, who relies on peak season to operate, this is definitely going to be a big impact … but in the long term. If this is the right call from the government, and then we must respect that and stay off the beaches and stay safe.”
SANParks manages beaches in Tsitsikamma, Natures Valley, Sedgefield and Wilderness.
General Manager, Vuyiswa Thabelthe, says their team will ensure the restrictions are adhered to. “The beaches that are under control are completely closed off. We are not allowing group activities; events that are seen to be super spreaders are not allowed on our beaches. But activities that are allowed in the regulations as announced yesterday – the fishing activities – we will also allow those activities to happen because that is seen as individual or two people doing the activity and they are actually putting food on the table.”
The Western Cape government says the decision to close beaches and parks will have a devastating effect on the region’s economy.
It will make further submissions to national government to reconsider its decision.
Monday night, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced stricter measures to mitigate the impact of the second wave of the coronavirus (COVID-19) as the country expects to hit the 1 million infections soon. South Africa is currently getting close to 900 000 coronavirus cases.
Addressing the nation from the Union Buildings, President Ramaphosa said the cumulative number of coronavirus cases in the country was currently at 866 127.
KwaZulu-Natal, Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng are leading the second wave of the virus.
“These figures are a great concern. There can no longer be any doubt that South Africa has entered a second wave of coronavirus infections we have been talking about.”
The daily average of the new cases in the last seven days is 74% higher than the previous seven days.
“This time the number of new cases has increased from a daily average of around 3 800 to just over 6 600. The daily average of coronavirus deaths has increased by 50%.”
He raised concerns about the increasing number of infections among young people.
“For the first time in this pandemic, most of the new infections are amongst young people, particularly those in the age group of 15-19 years.”
President Cyril Ramaphosa addresses nation on developments in SA’s Coronavirus COVID-19 response:
Beaches around Eastern Cape
Residents and tourists flocked to the beach to enjoy the waves one last time. Nelson Mandela Bay Mayor Nqaba Bhanga has urged citizens to stay safe and avoid public gatherings.
The resurgence of COVID-19 cases has resulted in the declaration of the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro and Sarah Baartman district municipalities as hotspots. Parks have also been closed and all beach festivals prohibited.
As SABC’s Anda Nqonji reports, currently, the Eastern Cape has over 17 000 active cases.
Head of disaster management in the metro Shane Brown says all braai areas along the beaches will also be closed to avoid public gatherings.
“I would also like to highlight the fact that we continue to have a curfew in the metro. The curfew is 10 at night to 4 o’clock in the morning. That means closing time is at 9 and people need to be home by 10 o’clock. We will be also enforcing with law enforcement agencies around the metro over this period of time.”
-Additional reporting by Anda Nqonji
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