Botswana Nightclubs to reopen as SOE restrictions end

Nightclubs will reopen from October 1, as other trading restrictions on businesses are lifted due to the end of the State of Emergency (SOE), Investment, Trade and Industry minister, Mmusi Kgafela has said.

Parliament approved President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s request for the SOE last April and subsequently extended it twice. The SOE, which came with accompanying regulations, introduced various business trading restrictions and other limitations to fight COVID-19. Masisi recently said government would not seek a further extension of the SOE.

This morning, Kgafela said the restrictions on businesses, such as trading hours, would end on September 30. Nightclubs have not been allowed to operate since March 21, 2020 and many of the businesses have since closed or had their premises converted to other uses.

“It’s straight forward. Nightclubs will be opened from October 1,” Kgafela said in a televised briefing this morning. He was responding to a request for clarification from state broadcaster, BTv.

Different ministries are appearing on BTV to explain how they will exit the SOE, balancing the return to pre-pandemic activities with the need to keep vigilant against the virus. The Trade Ministry’s update is seen as critical for the economy as it regulates various businesses and their operations, which have been hard hit by the pandemic and related restrictions.

Kgafela said all businesses, including restaurants and bars, would return to their pre-pandemic operating hours, although the Shops and Restaurant Hours Act could be used to enforce any restrictions deemed necessary after the SOE ends.

He said the recent amendments to the Liquor Act would help govern the sector’s compliance after the SOE ends.

“We saw the troubles here and there (in the liquor sector) and going forward, we decided to amend the Liquor Act to say that if the director of Public Health Services sees that operating of liquor businesses could threaten public health, regulations can be approved which the Ministry will effect,” he said.

The removal of restrictions on businesses is expected to improve the economy, although concerns remain that increased activity in sectors such as the liquor industry could yet again drive a new wave of COVID-19 cases.

“COVID-19 is still here and it is still a challenge,” Kgafela said. “We expect businesses going forward to continue to comply with good hygiene practices. “The war is not over and my Ministry will continue engaging with the nation to resuscitate the economy.”—Mmegi

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