South Africans who had hoped to be able to order meals from their favorite restaurants and fast-food eateries, will not be able to for the next 21 days.
On Monday evening, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a three-week lockdown as a measure to help fight the Covid-19 infection rate in the country.
It begins at midnight, on Thursday, March 26.
Only essential services, supermarkets, hospitals, banks, tuck shops, and pharmacies will be open during this time.
Many had hoped that restaurants were included in the list of essential services that could operate during this time, however that is not the case.
In a statement released to the Restaurant Association of South Africa, the Minister of Tourism, Mmmamoloko Kuyabi-Ngubane confirmed that no restaurant will be operational during the lockdown.
“In compliance with the nation-wide lockdown it should be noted that all restaurants, cafes, bars, coffee shops will be required to comply with the nation-wide lockdown for 21 days,” the statement states.
“Such service providers have not been included on the list of what has been deemed essential services during the lockdown and will not be permitted to operate and will thus need to be closed for the duration.
“ In addition, in compliance with the nation-wide lockdown all food delivery services will also need to be suspended for 21 days with effect from midnight Thursday, 26 March 2020 until midnight Thursday, 16 April 2020. “
This includes all food delivery services like Mr. Delivery and UberEats.
In a statement to Independent Media, Uber Eats said: “The health and safety of our community come first, and we will do our best to support drivers, delivery people, and restaurants during these unprecedented times.
“We are working as a business to better understand the measures announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa on 23 March 2020 regarding transport and food delivery and will announce our actions to this in due course.”
Wendy Alberts, the CEO of the Restaurant Association of South Africa’s (RASA) shared a message on the RASA social media pages and WhatsApp groups, letting restaurants know that there will be no exceptions to the lockdown.
“I have been given directive from the Ministers Office to advise our industry that ALL restaurants are included in the TOTAL LOCKDOWN for 21 DAYS, effective Thursday 26th March 2020 @ 00:00 until Thursday 16th April @ 00:00,” she wrote.
“This includes all deliveries, take-aways or home deliveries. There is no exception to any alternative circumstances or any loopholes whatsoever and there will be NO exceptions made for any type of food service continue to trade.”
She also urged restaurateurs to play their part and help flatten the curve.
“We understand the industries challenges concerns and the financial impact this has brought into all our businesses. While economic losses for restaurants, entrepreneurs and employees would be severe at this time, the opportunity cost of being able to resume trade in 21 days with a hopefully muted covid-19 threat is worth it.”
Restaurants were already operating with shortened hours, with some even trying out new ways of delivery food, like kerbside deliveries.
Last week, government stated that no restaurant should operate after 6 pm, should have no more than 100 patrons and alcohol sales were also restricted to certain times.
Many restaurants have already chosen to close their establishments, especially those in the Western Cape, who were affected by potential covid-19 scares.
The industry has been hit hard and already waiters had started to feel the effect of the virus in the country even before the lockdown.
The duty manager for a KwaZulu-Natal restaurant, Mazvita Zanamwe, calls it a stressful time for the restaurant industry.
She said that the restaurant had received many cancellations and that seating plans have been put in place to ensure that patrons “socially distance” themselves from others.
She said customers who show any symptoms of the virus would be turned away to protect the staff and other patrons.
“We ask asks guests on arrival whether they want their waiter or waitress to wear a mask. All staff wear gloves at all times and sanitise regularly.
“Hand sanitisers are placed on all tables, and a hand-washing basin has been placed outside for easy access.
“It is a stressful time for everyone, but we are doing our best to ensure that everything in the restaurant is hygienic and customers are safe,” she said.
Michelle Mubaira, a 21-year-old waitress from Stellenbosch, said the coronavirus outbreak impacted business.
“We haven’t been busy since the outbreak in the country. The number of sit-in customers has reduced as people prefer being at home during this time.
“I haven’t been able to make a lot of money to sustain me as there are not many customers to serve,” she said.
She put her plans to study an events management course at the University of Cape Town in April on hold.
She will use the money she saved for the university to support her during this difficult time.
She said the restaurant implemented many preventative measures to ensure that patrons dine in a hygienic establishment.
KwaZulu-Natal waiter Sabelo Khumalo, 24, believes the coronavirus will cause job losses soon.
“Covid-19 has negatively affected the restaurant industry. It’s supposed to be busy this time of the year, especially during the children’s holidays and the upcoming Easter break. People are afraid of dining at restaurants in fear of getting the virus.
“If nothing gets batter, we may lose our jobs. If the company cuts the hours we work, we will work and earn less,” he said.