Fuel stations are open and will be serving the public and emergency services during lockdown. That’s according to Vishal Premlall, director of the South African Petroleum Retailers Association (SAPRA).
“It is important that fuel stations remain fully operational as they provide an essential service for emergency workers like doctors, ambulances, the South African Police Services and the South African National Defence Force. It is important for these personnel to have access to fuel and basics within a few kilometres of an emergency location,” he says.
It also means residents don’t need to stray far from home, or venture into larger retail outlets to get basic supplies. “At this point, convenience forecourt stores are open and will have basics available for the public to purchase. These stores will obviously be observing strict sanitisation procedures to ensure all is being done to keep employees and the public safe. They are dealing with the situation with extreme caution,” says Premlall.
He says, as per government requirements, employees at fuel stations will have workplace ID cards and identity documents on them at all times. They will also have a signed letter from the owner of the retail site acknowledging that they are an employee. “All employees will also be provided with work uniforms and the necessary protective sanitisers.”
Hendry van der Merwe, the owner of two fuel stations in Rietfontein and Park Dean, says both stations were quiet on day one of the lockdown. “We still had a mixture of emergency vehicles and private vehicles coming to fill up. A few people also came into the convenience store for bread and milk.”
Things were also quiet in Port Elizabeth, says Vikash Makhan, the owner of two fuel stations, one in Commercial Road, Sidwell, and the other in Sherwood Kabega Park. “At the commercial station, we saw more of the refuelling of larger, heavy-duty vehicles and a trickle of people coming into the shop, most making their way to work. They were buying basics and lunch items like pies and sandwiches, since the fast-food outlets in the area are closed.
“There were a lot more people wearing masks and gloves. It appears that companies are implementing stricter protocols for employees heading into work. People also seem to be taking social distancing and sanitising more seriously, especially when coming into the shop,” he says.
Premlall says that with the number of positive coronavirus cases rising daily, both internationally and in South Africa, it is imperative for citizens to obey the president’s orders to remain in lockdown.
“We are proud to be able to service the public and emergency services during this time. While it is a stressful time for all, we are working to keep up the morale of employees at stations, and we encourage the public to acknowledge the sacrifice these people are making, being away from families and putting themselves at risk to provide a service,” he says.
“It is also important to stress that while convenience stores are open, in the spirit of the lockdown we are promoting responsible visits to these stores. We need to contain and control this outbreak in any way we can,” he concludes.