Eveline de Klerk
WALVIS BAY - Some players in the hospitality industry at the coast are pleading with government to be allowed to trade under stage three regulations of the state of emergency, including allowing sit-in clients at restaurants instead of takeaways.
The industry believes that they have already managed to weather the storm during a series of lockdowns imposed on Walvis Bay, Arandis and Swakopmund. Government last week Wednesday announced that restaurants in Swakopmund, Walvis Bay, Arandis, Windhoek, Okahandja and Rehoboth will only operate on a takeaway basis, while the rest of the country operate under stage three regulations, which include on-site dining until 28 August.
“We were hoping to rebuild our business hence going back to stage 3 is like a slap in the face. Why should we be bottled up in the same category as Windhoek. They operated while we were in stage two,” one of the business owners said on Monday. F
rans Van der Bijl, owner of Monkey Puzzle restaurant in Swakopmund also said that they do not understand why Walvis Bay and Swakopmund had to revert to stage two, while the industry itself has not recorded any positive cases.
“This should be a clear indication that we observe all guidelines and regulations for Covid-19 and take extra precautionary measures. In our case we don’t allow clients to dine inside but we rather let them sit outside in the open air,” he said. The manager of Bluegrass restaurant, who requested anonymity, also explained that they could barely manage to sell takeaways, as most people prefer on-site dining.
“We only managed to sell three takeaways for today and our staff complement is more than 30 people. Two of my staff have been evicted and there is nothing we can do as we are not making any money at all,” she explained. She added that they managed to get a decent number of people dining before the President announced last week that the industry will revert to stage two. However, she said, retrenchments are not an option at this stage.
“We understand Covid-19 but we are also very cautious and have been following the regulations and guidelines that is why the industry has not yet recorded a positive case. We have proven ourselves that we can manage it and thus should at least be allowed to allow dining-in on reservations,” she pleaded. Sylvia Louise, manager of Desert Explorers just outside Swakopmund, who mainly focuses on activities such as camel rides, scenic flights and quad biking said that they had to let go of about 20 staff members due to the Covid-19 pandemic fallout. She explained that the staff opted to be retrenched as they were just sitting around. Louise added that prior to that, they had a few Namibians, especially from Walvis Bay that made use of their services. However, she said, salary reductions and retrenchments also impacted locals hence the industry cannot rely or expect support from Namibians at this stage. Spokesperson of the tourism ministry Romeo Muyunda yesterday sympathised with the industry, saying that the decision to revert to stage two was not taken lightly.
“Government along with the ministry took all implications into consideration before the decision was taken to revert to stage two. We understand the difficult situation the industry is in but one has to protect our human capacity as well and exhaust all measures to prevent Covid-19 from spreading,” Muyunda explained.
He added that the ministry fully supports the government decision as it is not meant to punish anyone but set in place for the safety of all Namibians, including those operating in the tourism industry.