LOCKDOWN REFLECTIONS DAY 175
South Africans get a reason to look forward to Monday; health workers remain on the frontlines
South Africa went into a hard lockdown on 27 March 2020 in the hope of limiting the spread of Covid-19. As cases mounted, the lockdown was extended. Then the country started slowly opening up, with the country preparing to ease into Level 1 on Monday 21 September. These are the final reflections in a weekly series that monitored life in lockdown in various neighbourhoods.
Johannesburg: It’s been six long months since South Africa went into lockdown to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Now, at last, the government has decided the country is ready to move to alert Level 1.
On the day President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that the entire country would come to a standstill, I was meant to be celebrating my 23rd birthday.
The months that followed the initial announcement were filled with fear and uncertainty as we watched the number of Covid-19 infections and deaths rise.
Most South Africans were impressed with the government’s swift response to the pandemic, and united behind calls for everyone to stay at home, wash their hands and maintain a physical distance from others.
Sanitising and the wearing of face masks became the new normal.
The first few weeks of lockdown were weird, but people quickly adapted, finding new ways to socialise, work and worship.
But it wasn’t long before cabin fever started kicking in. People wanted to get out. To go back to work. Jobs were being lost and families were going hungry. On top of it all, there was widespread corruption in the procurement of PPE.
South Africans have gone through it all.
One aspect of the storm we weathered – which I think we don’t discuss openly enough – is the psychological instability that hit many of us. Mentally, it was hard for everyone to cope.
Meanwhile, as we go to Level 1, I hope South Africans continue taking all necessary precautions to protect themselves, their families and others.
A part of me hopes the culture of wearing masks, physical distancing and washing and sanitising hands continues, even after we are finally out of the woods.
Covid-19 reminded us that good hygiene can save lives.
But, most importantly, let’s remember that Level 1 would not have been possible without the dedication of the courageous healthcare workers who fought this battle at the frontline. They are the true heroes of this tale. – Ayanda Mthethwa
Giddy with relief at being able to go home for the holidays
Rondebosch, Cape Town: Leaving the house has become an oddly humorous affair since the pandemic began. Instead of simply scratching around for my phone and keys, I have to make sure I haven’t chucked my mask in the laundry or run out of sanitiser.
I still haven’t fully adjusted to having my temperature taken and hands sprayed with chemicals before entering a shop, but it would be more worrying if it didn’t happen. It’s a ‘new normal’ most of us never thought we’d have to live through. But with President Ramaphosa’s announcement that we’re shifting to Level 1 on Monday, it seems the worst is almost over. It’s clear, though, that things will never be the same.
Lockdown has taught me to shift my priorities. Protecting my mental health is no longer an option, but mandatory. Being holed up indoors for months almost drove some of us crazy, but on the flipside it was a lesson in self-care. Spending time outdoors, reading books and generally treating ‘yoself’ with kindness are now on the weekly to-do list.
Appreciating family and friends has also jumped up a rung on the ‘importance’ ladder. Being far from home has been challenging, but communicating more frequently with those close to me has allowed those relationships to grow beautifully.
Buying my ticket home for the holidays made me feel giddy, yet it reminded me of how incredibly lucky I’ve been through this pandemic. I’m a journalist who never lost her job or took a pay cut. I didn’t have to deal with food insecurity and homelessness; harsh realities for many in this country.
As the pandemic eases, more devastation will come to light. It is comforting, though, to see the incredible work being done by civil society to help those in need. It’s not enough to offset the looting and corruption by government officials, but it goes some way to restoring one’s faith in humanity. – Sandisiwe Shoba
The sound of music sweetened these bitter times
Johannesburg South, Gauteng: It’s been a six-month roller coaster since the president announced a national lockdown. Navigating the anxiety that came with the uncertainty of Covid-19 – and its effects healthwise, socially and economically – has not been an easy task.
Throughout the ordeal, though – and right up until Level 1 – I’ve had one constant companion: music.
Whenever I’ve felt lonely, anxious or claustrophobic, it has been there for me. Throughout the lockdown I’ve looked forward to Fridays – not because they signify the start of the weekend (a luxury in journalism) – but because I know that Friday means new music.
The sweet sounds of some of my favourite artists have kept me going during times where I’ve felt drained and unproductive.
I’ve found solace in companions such as house music, hip hop, jazz and heavy metal. I’ve attended virtual concerts to ensure that I contribute something towards the livelihood of my favourite artists at a time when they’re unable to perform for large crowds.
But it hasn’t been easy and tough times still lie ahead for us and the rest of the world.
But we will ease the suffering in a healthy way – by dancing, or making the rest of the world dance, just as Master KG and Nomcebo Zikode have done with their hit song Jerusalema. – By Yanga Sibembe
Level 5 feels like a distant nightmare
Mowbray, Cape Town: On Wednesday night, President Ramaphosa announced that we would be going to alert Level 1 next week. It can’t come soon enough. We’ve been locked down for so long that Level 5 seems like a distant nightmare, with the only reminders being the photos I took at the time.
When we went into Level 5, I couldn’t believe how empty Mowbray’s always bustling Main Road became. Overnight, everything changed. We had to wear masks and keep our distance from others. This virus quickly changed our lives… All I could think of was fast-forwarding to a time when I would be able to bond with my loved ones in real life, in real time.
As we head to Level 1, it’s easy to start thinking that Covid-19 is a thing of the past. But whenever someone I know tells me they’ve tested positive, it almost makes me want to live the rest of my life as though we’re still on Level 5.
I miss doing outdoor activities, but I also know I have to combine being social with the necessary precautions. – Karabo Mafolo
It’s not over yet – the search for a vaccine continues
Protea, Soweto: Level 1 presents a long-awaited opportunity for a return to full economic activity. This is crucial in saving and restoring jobs after the pandemic left many South Africans unemployed.
The impact of the lockdown has been noticeable everywhere, all around us in our neighbourhoods. Uncertainty and fear saw children being kept out of school for months, and there were many heated debates over whether reopening schools was the correct call.
The medical fraternity faced the pandemic head-on, and continues to do so. These frontline heroes deserve the country’s eternal gratitude.
While South Africa’s current Covid-19 figures suggest the government handled the pandemic well, there were many contradictory signals and mixed messages that exacerbated the uncertainty.
We must not be fooled into thinking that, come Level 1, the uncertainty will subside. Anxiety will remain. But as more and more countries relax their lockdown regulations, the focus will shift to the race to find a vaccine. – Bheki C. Simelane
Finally – a reason to look forward to Monday, but compassion required
Oranjezicht, Cape Town: When Cyril Ramaphosa announced South Africa would be going to Level 1, my first thought was of the president dancing – dancing is what South Africans do best.
Then I had another thought: the often feeble attempts at “humanitarian support” might dry up in this return to ‘normal’. Where municipalities have sheltered the homeless; where funding has been allocated for vulnerable people through the social distress grant… this could all be stopped with nothing to fall back on. Evictions, too, will resume.
In Cape Town and Johannesburg, evictions are roughly handled, often carried out without the necessary court orders. On Wednesday afternoon, the City of Cape Town’s JP Smith blamed activists associated with Reclaim The City, Ndifuna Ukwazi and the Social Justice Coalition for recent land invasions in parts of the metro.
Read in Daily Maverick: City of Cape Town blames housing activists for land occupations
All these organisations have done with regard to land invasions is to ask to see court orders for these evictions. How can the City’s law enforcement not follow the law when it comes to evictions? Under Level 1, it’s likely we will be seeing even more brutal evictions. I heard on the radio a few days ago that the Gauteng government had eviction requests ready to file. How did the ideal of government for the people, by the people, go so wrong?
I hope I’m wrong and that the government will continue to support vulnerable people until they can get back on their feet. Let’s see some compassion in Level 1. – Suné Payne DM
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