South Africa

CORONAVIRUS

Western Cape to appeal blanket ban on Garden Route beaches as holiday season kicks off

Western Cape Premier Alan Winde does not agree with the closure of beaches on the Garden Route, which includes holiday towns such as George, Knysna and Plettenberg Bay. (Photo: Gallo Images / Netwerk24 / Adrian de Kock)

In an unsurprising move, the Western Cape government will be appealing to the national government to review the blanket closure of Garden Route beaches over the holidays. Beach season traditionally kicks off on 16 December and the premier believes it will be a ‘test’ of the province’s enforcement efforts.

“We need to make sure that we have a safe festive season,” said Western Cape Premier Alan Winde on the eve of the start of the 2020 holiday season, where beach attendance is going to be a bit different.

On Tuesday, 15 December, Winde and Dr Keith Cloete, head of the provincial health department, briefed the media on the latest Covid-19 update, but attention quickly shifted to the closure of beaches along the Garden Route. 

On Monday evening, during his address to the nation, President Cyril Ramaphosa declared the Garden Route a hotspot, closing beaches and public parks from 16 December to 3 January. 

Festive season beach ban for Eastern Cape and Garden Route as Ramaphosa tightens Covid-19 regulations

While Winde welcomed the differential approach, instead of a blanket lockdown, he did not agree with the closure of beaches on the Garden Route, which includes holiday towns such as George, Knysna and Plettenberg Bay. This decision was “something we definitely will be engaging on” said Winde. The provincial government hopes to discuss the issue with the Presidency by Friday latest.

Winde said as the holiday season starts, common sense needs to prevail. He said at the beach, you cannot wear a mask while swimming, but on land, when approaching others while walking, you “put your mask on, as you come closer”. He said in retail spaces and in restaurants when moving to common spaces such as bathrooms, people should wear their masks. 

Ultimately, “beach management comes down to local authorities”, said Winde, adding that 334 lifeguards and 300 disaster management volunteers would be deployed to the province’s beaches. Roadblocks will also be set up by traffic authorities and the South African Police Service.

“Tomorrow (16 December) is the first test,” said Winde, when asked by Daily Maverick how the province will be able to handle crowd enforcement at popular beaches such as Gordon’s Bay, Camps Bay and Strand Beach.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday the Knysna-Plett Herald reported that mayors in the Garden Route were meeting to discuss the blanket ban in the coastal area, which is a popular spot for holidaymakers. 

“The Mother City has been given a reprieve by not being declared a hotspot area, and the city will do everything possible to ensure compliance with the restrictions, as well as the amended restrictions that have been announced. While our beaches remain open, it is up to our residents to conduct themselves responsibly as the national government will not hesitate to close our beaches too, should they see non-compliance,’ said Cape Town mayor Dan Plato in a statement earlier on Tuesday, 15 December. 

‘The biggest concern is the non-adherence to protective behaviours’

Giving the health update, Dr Cloete said there was an established second wave in the Western Cape, with increased pressures on the provincial health system. Cases, hospitalisations and deaths were increasing. By Tuesday afternoon, the province had 157,348 confirmed cases of Covid-19 to date; with 24,485 active cases and 1,872 hospitalisations. The province has had 5 176 Covid-19 deaths. 

Cloete said the province experienced more cases in the second wave than during the peak of the first wave. Cases increased by 48% in a week, with hospitalisations and deaths also rising. In the Garden Route, the past seven days saw fewer active cases than reported in the previous week, meaning cases could be stabilising soon, with Cloete warning, “that’s early, but superspreader events can change this”. 

Of concern for the department was the “non-adherence to protective behaviours – hence the big drive for targeted law enforcement and behaviour change interventions”, said Cloete. DM 

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