THE Restaurant Operators’ Association of Zimbabwe has expressed concern over the renewed closure of restaurants saying it is a misperception that restaurants pose a threat to public health.
Under the new regulations, which were announced by Vice-President and Health and Child Care Minister Dr Constantino Chiwenga last Saturday, restaurants are not allowed to sell food to sit-in customers save for hotels and lodges restaurants.
Beer halls and nightclubs remain closed while bottle stores will operate from 10am to 4pm with retailers and shops operating from 8am to 6pm.
All gatherings except funerals are banned while companies have been directed to decongest their staff by 50 percent.
In a statement ROAZ president, Mr Bongai Zamchiya said the latest regulations threaten livelihoods of restaurateurs, staff and suppliers.
“We have been and remain in full support of the national effort to eliminate Covid but as a trade we are now at a crossroads and require a collective rethink,” he said.
“Contrary to a common misperception, well-run restaurants are not venues for spreading Covid but are hygienic in concept and operation, posing little if any threat to customers, certainly no greater than any other business or home environment.
“In addition, more than 75 percent of our staff have been vaccinated so far and practices of sanitisation and social distancing on site and behind the scenes are undertaken in full compliance with law and expectations.”
Mr Zamchiya said ROAZ members were active in combating the deadly Covid-19 pandemic in many ways and would continue to do so.
“Another misperception is that takeaway services, which are still permitted, cover reasonable percentage of costs of operation such as wages, rents, security, refrigeration and the many statutory licences paid to central and local Government,” he said.
Mr Zamchiya said a survey carried out in February this year showed that takeaways contribute between eight and 18 percent of most businesses’ revenue and this was not sustainable.
Restaurants have either been closed or in partial operation for the past 14 months and many have closed permanently due to financial challenges.
“Our members are serious professionals whose commitment to customer safety and national health issues is without question. What has to be made clear is that it is easy to monitor our members’ operations,” said Mr Zamchiya.
He said the association was therefore appealing to Government to allow restaurants to operate as they have been doing and would want to commit to compliance and to support all safety measures put in place by health officials.
Mr Zamchiya said members will continue to strive to maintain very high hygienic standards.
According to ROAZ, across the world there has been a major rethink on restaurant closures and many lockdowns have been implemented without resorting to restaurant closures.
Mr Zamchiya said the association fully supports localised lockdowns which he said was a practical solution to containing outbreaks in particular areas while allowing commercial and social activities to take place safely in other areas.
“On the day of the announcement of the tightened lockdown regulations, only eight new cases of Covid-19 were reported in Harare but operators in the city have been closed to sit-down dining,” he said.