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South Africa’s hospitality and events industry has received a major boost with the government easing strict COVID-19 regulations that have prevented it since June from hosting more than 50 people at restaurants and events public.

JOHANNESBURG – The hospitality and events industry in South Africa has received a major boost with the relaxation of strict COVID-19 regulations which have prevented it since June from hosting more than 50 people in restaurants and public events.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced that the country will move to a Level 2 COVID restrictions alert from Monday, which allows at least 250 people for outdoor events and 500 for outdoor events.

Trading hours have also been increased from one hour from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m., while retail outlets previously limited to selling alcohol Monday through Thursday can now sell alcohol on Friday.

The industry is one of the sectors hardest hit by the COVID-19 restrictions introduced by the government to curb the rise in COVID-19 infections that have so far fueled its deadly third wave of the virus.

More than 1,100 restaurants have closed due to lockdown restrictions during the country’s third wave of COVID-19 infections, according to an internal investigation by the Restaurants Association of South Africa (Rasa).

“It has been the most complex and difficult time for the restaurant industry over the past 18 months. We traded at about 25% potential with 100% debt. We are drowning in demand letters, we are drowning in debt and our industry is bankrupt, ”said Wendy Alberts, Managing Director of Rasa.

She said most restaurants had laid off up to 70% of their staff and that increased working hours would allow restaurants to start bringing them back.

The difficult business conditions have not only directly affected owners, servers, chefs and bartenders, but also other industry players such as artists, performers and event planners.

Ayza Kutsch, who hosts the weekly Black Labone shows in the capital Pretoria, said the latest easing of restrictions would allow more artists to start earning income.

The event typically attracts over 450 people per week, but during the tight lockdown restrictions it closed temporarily as it was operating at a loss, hosting just 50 people.

“The move to level 2 is an improvement because we struggled with the restrictions imposed on us. We usually plan our programs a month in advance, but it has been difficult with the changes in the foreclosure rules, ”Kutsch said.

South Africa, which accounts for more than 35% of COVID-19 infections in Africa with 2.8 million confirmed cases including 84,327 deaths, and has recently battled a resurgence driven by the delta variant.

South Africa has recorded 3,961 new infections and 126 deaths in the past 24 hours.

Over 7 million people have been fully immunized with the Johnson & Johnson single injection vaccine or the two-dose Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

South Africa is currently offering vaccines to all adults 18 and over as it seeks to vaccinate at least 40 million of its 60 million people by the end of the year, but is struggling to achieve its goal of 300,000 daily vaccinations.

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ABC News