South Africa

Covid-19

Western Cape mulls Level 3 balancing act

During the Western Cape legislature sitting two key themes were raised: the reopening of schools and the tourism industry. (Photo: Streeter Lecka / Getty Images)

The Western Cape, like the rest of South Africa, faces a balancing act: Returning to a new normal as schools and businesses start to reopen, and doing with more than 17,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19.

“If this was solely a health response and there was no other issue on the other side… you could stay in lockdown much longer… well, it’s not,” said Western Cape Premier Alan Winde on Thursday 28 May during a virtual sitting of the provincial legislature. 

From next week, the province, along with the rest of SA, will move to Alert Level 3 of the lockdown regulations, and members of the legislature want to know what the plans are to keep residents safe while there is a risk of contracting the virus. This as the province said Thursday that it had recorded 17,286 confirmed Covid-19 cases with 9,157 recoveries and 403 deaths. Winde warned that the number could double in the next two weeks. 

During the legislature sitting two key themes were raised: the reopening of schools and the tourism industry. 

With its pristine beaches, mountains and beautiful wine estates, the province has long been a tourist destination. The MEC for Finance and Economic Opportunities, David Maynier, answered questions related to this key revenue spinner for the province. 

Maynier said 103,000 jobs in the tourism sector had been lost in the province due to the lockdown. Tourists are unlikely to travel any time soon, because of the risks of contracting the virus as well as the restrictions on travel, said Maynier, and as a result, there will need to be a focus on domestic travel for tourism. 

Ultimately, the goal is to “open up the tourism sector – of course, in a responsible way”. Previously, Maynier said there were discussions in tourism ministerial committees on the reopening of certain tourist and entertainment attractions under Level 3 lockdown restrictions. 

As Covid-19 cases rise, Western Cape works on economic revival plans

The other big topic under discussion was the return to schools of Grade 7 and Grade 12 learners on 1 June. 

ACDP member of the legislature, Ferlon Christians, questioned what could be done to assure parents that sending their children to school is safe. Addressing the MEC for Education, Debbie Schäfer, he said “some of our parents are still fearful of sending them [their children] to school”. 

Schäfer said under current Covid-19 circumstances, parents have the option of keeping their children at home. The provincial department, however, would be communicating with parents on the preparations it is making, the MEC said. Personal protective equipment and safety packs have already been delivered to schools, said Schäfer. She added that schools that had not received this equipment would receive it soon. 

Earlier in the day, Winde said the province could see up to 9,300 deaths from Covid-19 during the province’s peak, now expected towards the end of June heading into early July. 

Winde said: “We simply cannot fight this pandemic alone. We need each and every person to help us. When you keep yourself safe, you keep your loved ones safe too.” DM

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