Cabinet has decided to move the nationwide Covid-19 curfew back by one hour to 10pm to allow restaurants to offer a full dinner service, but opted to retain the total ban on alcohol sales, tourism minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane said on Thursday.

The minister conceded that Covid-19 restrictions have had a crippling impact on the tourism and hospitality sector.

She said that in discussions with the restaurant sector, the impact of the curfew on trading hours and the alcohol ban were flagged as the two main constraints on business.

“To comply with the current curfew regulation, restaurants are unable to serve dinner to their customers, which means that they are unable to operate at peak time of their business day,” she said.

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“In response to this challenge, Cabinet has agreed to move the curfew to start at 10pm to allow for uninterrupted dinner service at restaurants. We believe that this change will go a long way towards increasing their revenue generation.

“The sale of alcohol remains prohibited.”

Kubayi-Ngubane said the fluctuating risk of coronavirus transmission has dictated that the government “pace ourselves in our efforts to reopen” the tourism industry.

“However, we believe that so far, one step at a time, we are walking in the right direction.¬†

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In a concession to the tourism sector, cabinet decided to to ease the restrictions around leisure travel. 
“The impact of the pandemic has been devastating for the sector. Many businesses are at risk and many jobs have already been lost. However, we are doing everything we can to ensure that the impact is minimised.”

“Currently, individuals are not allowed to leave their homes for leisure purposes. After the release of the new regulations, individuals will be permitted to leave their homes for leisure purposes within the province where they currently live.”

She stressed that travel for leisure purposes between provinces remained prohibited.

“Let me emphasise, it is only intra-provincial travel not inter-provincial travel. Individuals are still not permitted to travel between provinces for leisure purposes.”

Tour operators will be allowed to host tours in open safari vehicles, provided they make provision for social distancing and maximum ventilation.

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The minister said the changes would come into effect as soon as the amended regulations were gazetted.

-ANA, Editing by Desiree Erasmus