Women wash their hands at Africa Mall, Johannesburg. Picture: LUCA SOLA/AFP
Women wash their hands at Africa Mall, Johannesburg. Picture: LUCA SOLA/AFP

Mall owners and tenants have answered President Cyril Ramaphosa’s call to help fight the Covid-19 outbreak, with improved cleaning efforts, free hygienic products for customers and social distancing in  shopping centres.

The coronavirus, has led to more than 200 infections in a country which ranks in the top 10 in terms of malls per capita.

On Sunday March 15 the president declared a national state of disaster which encouraged people to work from home and limited public gatherings to less than 100 people. Subsequently, retailers have had to stop selling alcohol after 6pm on weekdays and 1pm on Sundays and public holidays.

Head of listed property funds at Stanlib, Keillen Ndlovu, says commercial property owners and their representative bodies as well as retailers, have acted swiftly and responsibly.

“There’s been great effort in terms of constant communication and things to do and or advice for landlords by both the SA Property Owners Association and the SA  Council of Shopping Centres, to help prevent or reduce the spread of the coronavirus,” said Ndlovu.

“We’ve noticed increased cleaning efforts at malls, of for example, lifts, doors and parking pay stations,” he said.

Restaurants were using social distancing by creating space among diners. Queues were being moved to outside areas at bank branches to prevent overcrowding.

But retailers who do not sell essential items such as food and medicine have seen their sales hit by the outbreak.

“Entertainment areas and restaurants have seen a sharp drop in footfall and this has also been driven by the recent announcement to stop serving alcohol from 6pm during weekdays,” Ndlovu said.

Hyprop Investments which owns top-rated malls including Clearwater Mall, Rosebank Mall, Hyde Park Corner and Canal Walk, has created a task team to manage its health measures in response to Covid-19.

“The health and safety of our tenants and customers is our top priority. We are working with all service providers to maintain the highest standards of safety and hygiene across our malls to safeguard our tenants, customers and all personnel working in each mall against the potential transmission of Covid-19. We have established a Covid-19 task team,” the company said.

“The team is implementing the relevant guidelines and measures of the local health authorities and protocols as advised by the SA government.”

Hyprop is rolling out the installation of hand sanitisers at all mall entrances, customer-care kiosks, restrooms, food courts and other high traffic areas.

“We have enhanced cleaning and disinfecting protocols with particular attention paid to high-touch zones, public contact points, back of house and delivery areas,” the company said.

JSE-listed property fund, Attacq which owns Mall of Africa, one of the country's largest malls, says it has also implemented stringent health measures.

“As part of our commitment to creating safe and sustainable spaces, Attacq has implemented World Health Organisation- recommended sanitisation measures across all our assets."

Attacq’s leadership team met its national retailer tenants.

“Collaboratively we decided that our retail centres should remain open and trading currently, but with an intensified approach to hygiene-control measures,” CEO Melt Hamman said.

Some of the immediate and direct steps taken by Attacq included all marketing initiatives that will attract more than 100 people have been postponed.

Service providers at the malls have been instructed to supply copies of their respective Covid-19 business continuity plans to ensure there is line of sight of the measures they will implement to protect employees and customers, Hamman said.

andersona@businesslive.co.za

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