South African police disperse protesters over lockdown pain

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — South African police officers used water cannon to disperse protesters marching Friday outside Parliament over the plight of the hospitality industry during the coronavirus pandemic.

Businesses say revenues have fallen because of the country’s lockdown and they seek further loosening of restrictions.

The protest occurred in Cape Town, one of the world’s most well-known tourist destinations. Officers shooed away protesters, who shouted ad whistled.

South Africa once had one of the world’s strictest lockdowns to delay the spread of the virus, but the government has been loosening it under economic pressure.

Sit-down restaurant service was one of the activities allowed in recent weeks, and yet restaurant workers this week protested across the country over the impacts on business and jobs. “Curfew is for wartime, not for restaurants!!!” one sign read.

Others seek the return of alcohol sales, which the government abruptly banned again this month after emergency beds in hospitals filled up.

South Africa now has the world’s fifth largest virus caseload, and confirmed cases surpassed 400,000 on Thursday. Africa's most developed country is struggling as the number of infections continues to climb.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has acknowledged the economic pain of the restrictions in a country where unemployment is now over 30% and joblessness especially affects young adults.

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