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Holidaying during Covid: six must knows

(Updated)

Dezemba’s going to be a little different this year.

The holidays are upon us. It’s time to unwind, relax and enjoy the break. But in the famous words of President Cyril Ramaphosa: “This virus does not take a holiday”. 

On December 14, just as most of South Africa was preparing in earnest for the holidays, Ramaphosa took away some of our Christmas cheer (Sorry, Grinch – our President means business.) This “family meeting” came just 11 days after his first pre-Christmas address. 

While you can still travel around the country, new rules apply to some parts of the coast. And we still have to carry our safety precautions with us on holiday as airlines, airports and holiday destinations get busy and the number of infections increases. We are in the second wave, after all. 

Here are a few things you need to know ahead of your travels: 

1. Travelling by bus or taxi 

Many South Africans will be travelling either by bus or by taxi for the holidays. 

So, when Ramaphosa spoke on Monday night he made special mention of what public transport operators and passengers are expected to do.  

  • The drivers and operators of any form of public transport must ensure that all their passengers wear a mask before entering the vehicle. 
  • If drivers and operators fail to do so, they will be liable to a fine or imprisonment of up to six months. 

We also reached out to SABOA – the Southern African Bus Operators Association and they agreed:

  • Wear a mask for the duration of the trip.
  • Sanitise when getting into and out of public transport.
  • No eating or drinking – keep your mask up.
  • Where possible, have windows open throughout the trip or open windows at regular intervals.

2. Going to the airport

Protocols and procedures at airports have been beefed up due to the pandemic. Media liaison for Airports Company South Africa (Acsa), Gopolang Peme, told explain.co.za:

  • People travelling internationally should arrive at least four hours prior to check-in. 
  • People travelling domestically should arrive at least two hours prior to check-in.

This is to ensure that you and your family undergo the necessary screening processes that airports are conducting, as well as to avoid long queues and delays. Peme said airports would be increasing their resources to manage the expected influx of travellers.

“Within the airport terminal building, there are Covid-19 monitors who ensure that all protocols are observed, and help mitigate the potential spread of Covid-19,” he said. 

The government has also instructed international travellers to provide a certificate of proof of a negative Covid-19 test before travelling. This would have had to be done no more than 72 hours before the date of travel. If you fail to submit this certificate, you will have to quarantine for ten days – on your own dime.

3. On the plane

  • Keep your face mask on. You may only remove it during an emergency or when a cabin crew member instructs you to.
  • Children under the age of five don’t have to wear a mask.
  • If you have any underlying condition that exempts you from wearing a mask, a medical certificate must be produced. 
  • Crew members must keep their masks on all the time, unless there’s an emergency. 

When it comes to collecting luggage, it’s been advised that people should carry their bags themselves, to avoid contact with others. They should also wipe off surfaces like chair handles and tables and keep sanitising their hands. More on this here

4. “You have reached your destination”

Okay, now it’s time to let go and relax. But first, check in to your accommodation.

Lee Zama, the CEO of the Federated Hospitality Association of South Africa (Fedhasa), a national trade association for the hospitality industry that includes the accommodation and catering sectors, told explain.co.za that its facilities across the country are ready to receive guests. She said all staff received training and all the basic precautions had been put in place. 

Zama said the following measures must be enforced: 

  • Screening: all travellers will be screened upon arrival.
  • Check-in: maintain a 1.5-metre distance between yourself and the person behind the desk, the person in front of you and the person behind you. 
  • Touch-points: facilities will have frequently sanitised touch-points such as the elevator buttons. Zama said people should use nearby sanitisation stations before entering a lift. 

In the event of a confirmed guest infection, she said, track and tracing protocols will kick in and staff who may have been in contact will be notified and taken for tests.

5. At your holiday destination

Now that all the formalities are done, it’s time to throw on that bathing suit, slap on the sunscreen, grab your sun hat and mask and head to the beach… Oh no wait, you can’t… in some places 😶

Some beaches and public parks will be closed in the following areas: 

  • In the whole of the Eastern Cape, and in the Western Cape’s Garden Route District from 16 December until 3 January 2021. 
  • In KwaZulu-Natal, beaches and public parks will be closed on the 16th, 25th, 26th and 31st of December, as well as on the 1st, 2nd and 3rd of January 2021. 
  • The beaches and public parks in the Northern Cape and Western Cape (except the Garden Route) will be open, but only between 9am and 6pm.
  • Beach music festivals are restricted (Thanks for nothing, Matric Ragers 😏)
  • Outdoor gatherings are limited to 250 people, while indoor gatherings are limited to 100 people. 

Going out for dinner or drinks? There are some new rules:

  • Restaurants and bars will have to close at 10pm so that staff can be home by the 11pm curfew.
  • Social distancing must be observed even when eating and drinking.
  • Retailers can only sell alcohol between 10am and 6pm from Monday to Thursday – and you still can’t drink in public places. Wine tasting at wine farms in the Western Cape will be allowed. 
  • The national curfew has been tightened from 11pm to 4am. 

That means you’ll be bringing in the new year at home. 

“We should all remember that the hours of curfew also apply to Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. This means that we will all need to make changes to the way in which we celebrate these occasions,” Ramaphosa said. 

All these restrictions came into IMMEDIATE EFFECT from Monday midnight. 

6. Hotspots and regulations

With cases increasing in Nelson Mandela Bay, the Sarah Baartman District in the Eastern Cape, as well as the Garden Route District in the Western Cape, Ramaphosa decided to declare them all a hotspot. (You can still go there, though. Thank goodness you didn’t have to cancel your holiday, right?)

When identifying a hotspot, Ramaphosa said: “Consideration is given to the number of new Covid-19 cases per day, the testing rate within the population, the percentage positivity rate within the population, the number of active cases, the number of hospital admissions and the number of deaths.”

The following restrictions apply to hotspots: 

  • A curfew from 10pm to 4am (early to bed!)
  • No public consumption of alcohol.
  • Sale of alcohol will be limited to Monday to Thursday between 10am and 6pm.
  • Outdoor gatherings limited to 250 people, indoor gatherings are limited to 100 people. 

Be safe and enjoy your travels. 

This article was updated to include the latest developments as of 14 December 2020.

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