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S.Africa eases coronavirus curfew to help restaurant sector

South Africa is to ease its coronavirus curfew by an hour to help restaurants serve dinner, Tourism Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane said Thursday.

Restaurants have been campaigning fiercely against a 9pm curfew imposed by President Cyril Ramaphosa on July 12, saying the early start deterred customers from going out to dinner, a main source of income.

Kubayi-Ngubane told reporters that the cabinet had mulled the constraints and “agreed to move the curfew, to start at 10pm (2000 GMT) to allow for uninterrupted dinner services at restaurants.”

“We believe that this change will go a long way towards increasing their revenue generation,” the minister said.

But he added that the sale of alcohol — another grievance in the hospitality sector — remained banned.

According to Restaurant Association of South Africa CEO Wendy Alberts, a third of restaurants have already shuttered since the onset of lockdown.

The industry employs an estimated 800,000 people.

Kubayi-Ngubane also announced that individuals would now be permitted to leave their homes for leisure purposes within the province where they live, and tour guides will be allowed to offer tours in open safari vehicles under certain conditions.

The continent’s most industrialised economy has recorded 7,497 deaths and 471,123 infections — the highest tally in Africa and the fifth biggest in the world.

Ramaphosa imposed a lockdown in March, restricting movement and gatherings.

He loosened some of the restrictions in June, allowing restaurants to reopen, initially for take-out and then for sit-down dining.

In mid-July, as infection numbers surged, he brought back the 9pm-4am curfew and reinstated a ban on the sale of alcohol, a move aimed at easing the strain on hospitals by reducing admissions from violence and accidents.