President Cyril Ramaphosa, on Monday the 28th December 2020, announced that the Country would move from Lockdown Level 1 to Level 3 due to the surge of the Covid-19. The Bitou Municipality, which is part of the Garden Route District, remains a Covid -19 hotspot and will be subjected to stricter regulations that apply to hotspot areas.
Yesterday, the Bitou Executive Mayor, Councillor Peter Lobese, called an urgent Local Covid -19 Committee meeting to discuss the implications of the President’s announcement on the town and its people. All stakeholders, including South African National Parks, Cape Nature and Plett Tourism, were part of this meeting in order to create uniformity in the message to be communicated to our residents.
It should be noted that the stricter measures imposed are intended to prevent the rapid spread of the coronavirus are supported, also by the Western Cape Premier and provincial government, especially as the impact of the coronavirus on hospitals is worrying. Admissions to hospitals in the province are already 50% more than with the initial surge of infections; the mortality rate is also already more than 22% than what was recorded with the first curve.
The Amended regulations came into effect at midnight on 28 December. Chapter7 of the amended Regulations applies specifically to Hotspot areas like the Bitou Municipality. We highlight some of these:
1. FACE MASKS
Chapter 4 of the Regulations lists several mandatory protocols that everyone must comply with when in public. One of the requirements is the correct and consistent wearing of facemasks, from the moment you leave your home and whenever in public areas.
Failure to wear a face mask now is a punishable offense. Businesses must consistently ensure that both patrons and staff adhere to all of the health protocols. Business owners are still liable should the protocols not be complied with by individuals while on their premises.
According to the Amended Regulations, only emergency services and essential workers are allowed to be outside their homes as from 21h00 to 06h00. No one else is allowed to leave their homes during the curfew, unless for medical or safety emergencies. Employers must complete a special form for the emergency services personnel and staff performing essential services, and they must always have the form readily at hand during the curfew. Business owners should note that the Regulations contain a definition of businesses that must close as early as 20:00 to give employees a chance to meet the curfew deadline.
Non-compliance with the curfew rule is now a punishable offense and can result in fines, imprisonment, or both a fine and imprisonment.
3. BEACHES, FISHING , PARKS AND RECREATIONAL ACTIVITIES
The Regulations prohibit access to beaches, lagoons, rivers, public swimming pools, dams, and pools. However, national parks (SanParks / CapeNature) areas will remain open (this includes Keurbooms Nature Reserve river areas) for recreational and fishing purposes (north of the bridge will remain open); the area south of the bridge is only open to those with a proper fishing subsistence permit only (not a license).
It should be noted that only fishing permit holders and fishing license holders are allowed to fish on the beach and additional family members who has no permits should not accompany them. The Regulations are explicit that allowance on beaches and rivers are only granted for fishing.
The official launch sites at Keurbooms Nature Reserve and Central Beach remains open. Water Based Commercial operators are allowed to continue, this includes Ocean Blue Adventures / Ocean Safaris / Offshore Adventures / Ocean Kayaks / Ocean Sailing Charters / Enrico Fishing Charters.
Robberg and Keurbooms Nature Reserves are open and only 300 pax per day are allowed for fishing and hiking. There also time and alcohol restrictions.
4. GATHERINGS AND BUSINESSES
The owners of facilities where people gather, including restaurants, must display an occupation certificate according to which maximum occupancy rate can be determined. Restaurants are limited to an absolute limitation of 50 people indoors or 100 people outdoors.
Hotels, resorts, guesthouses, and accommodation establishments are allowed 100% occupancy provided they adhere strictly to the health protocols.
Businesses must limit clients to only 50% of their floor space. All customers must strictly adhere to health protocols, including the wearing of facemasks.
Facilities such as game farms and parks where access control is applied may only operate between 09:00 and 18:00.
Wearing facemasks at gatherings is mandatory and criminally enforceable. Safe social distancing must be strictly adhered to.
Law enforcement officers can demand gatherings to disperse. Those who refuse to obey the law enforcement officers may face prosecution under the Criminal Procedure Act.
The Regulations include a list of businesses that are not allowed to trade, including nightclubs, bars, taverns, and shebeens.
The Regulations prohibit all religious (excluding funerals) and cultural activities until January 15, after which the restriction will be reconsidered. Political rallies are barred.
All gatherings applicable to funerals are limited to a maximum of 50 people. Night vigils and post-funeral gatherings are not allowed, and the funeral proceedings may not exceed more than two hours.
The Regulations prohibit the public from visiting numerous listed institutions, including Correctional Services facilities and facilities that care for the elderly.
6. LAW ENFORCEMENT
The Bitou Municipality’s Law Enforcement Officers will continue to support the South African Police Services with the enforcement of these Regulations. It is very important for members of the public to recognize the fact that all law enforcement officials are there to ensure that everyone is safe.
Several of the officers have been trained to deal with the public in a confident manner; the officers should not be undermined. The public should respect them and keep in mind not to break the law. The public should not abuse the officers and should rather respect the regulations of the lockdown levels. The public should comply with the regulations and should not insult the law enforcement officers.
It is very important to ensure that we all work towards a safe environment where we all work together to stop the spread of the virus. Each individual need to comply to the regulations and this would limit the need for law enforcement officials to step in and enforce the law.
Plettenberg Bay is still open for business and we are working with local business and the tourism board to ensure that our visitors enjoy their stay in our lovely town. We still have a lot to offer despite the various restrictions imposed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Plett remains a feeling and it we need to continue chasing this feeling called Plett.
Issued by: Bitou Communications on Behalf of the Executive Mayor, Councillor Peter LobeseLast published 30 December 2020