Vishal Premlall, Director of The South African Petroleum Retailers Association’s (SAPRA), a proud association of the Retail Motor Industry Organisation (RMI) representing approximately 750 fuel stations countrywide, says petrol stations are open and will be serving the public and emergency services during lockdown. “It is important that petrol 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 that these personnel have access to petrol 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 basics. “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 etc.”
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 vehicles coming to fill up, a mixture of emergency vehicles and private vehicles, and there were a few people coming into the convenience store for bread and milk.” He says since most people filled up during the past two days he suspects that things will be quiet for a week or so and then will stabilise again. “We have made the decision to close the fuel station from 18:00 to 06:00.”
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 the refuelling of larger, heavy-duty vehicles and a trickle of people coming into the shop, most making their way into 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.
In an effort to support the fuel station owners and enable shared services, the SAPRA offices are remaining functional during the lockdown. “We believe it is important that we provide support for our members during this challenging time. We will be accessible for those needing advice and assistance.”
Premlall says, with the number of positive Coronavirus cases rising daily both internationally and in South Africa, it is imperative that citizens 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 the moral of employees at stations up 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.