I returned to South Africa on 3 March 2020. As to that day, there were no cases of Coronavirus/COVID-19 in the country and no notion of the term 'lockdown'. All I knew was what I saw on the news, a terrible virus which started in Wuhan. China was building a hospital in a very short amount of time, and some airlines had already begun travelling restrictions. I was slightly paranoid, coming from Luxembourg, but there was only one case by the time I left. A few days later, the inevitable had happened, South Africa had their first case, two days after I landed. Do I have it? Should I distance myself?

It turned out the infected couple went to Italy and had flown to the Durban International Airport, King Shaka, instead of O.R. Tambo where I flew into. At the time of my arrival, my voice had gone missing and that didn't seem to bother anyone at the Luxembourg Airport, Charles de Gaulle in Paris, or O.R. Tambo in Johannesburg in South Africa. So I just went on my way.

Two weeks later the government placed us into a 'National State of Disaster'. I thought I'm fine because I haven't had any symptoms and no one called me about the flight the couple was on that had returned from Italy. However, I was still a bit paranoid that I could be a carrier.

Before lockdown

Here in South Africa, we don't just have to keep a distance, we need to obtain sober habits as well.

Our Minister of Police has prohibited bars, restaurants, taverns, shebeens (in South Africa those are illegal 'bars' or liquor stores in the rural areas) and shops selling alcohol after 18:00 during the week, Sundays and public holidays, it stops at 13:00.

Churches were asked to stop gatherings and worship for the safety of their congregation and most churches agreed to this except one.

This church felt their services had never been stopped by the government or any other reasons so why should it now. Shopping centres stocked up on sanitizer, sold out of toilet paper, started counting their customers entering their shops and people bought as though the zombie apocalypse had become a reality.

Personally, had not gotten a job due to this whole situation because I didn't get tested since I seem like a low-risk case, however, the owner of the company I applied to didn't want to take that risk. People started calling into the radio about how much trouble our country would be in economically, how lockdown would be a bad idea and ruin us, however, in the same breath, they freak out because if the virus reached the rural areas South Africa would start picking up bodies by the truckload.

In 2018 the HIV stats for South Africa said that 7.7 million people are HIV+ making us the country with the largest HIV epidemic numbers in the world. In that same year, more than 60,000 people died of Tuberculosis (TB) which around 42,000 of them were HIV+.

South Africa is also one of the countries with the highest TB cases in the world.

And thus the decision was made to save the people of South Africa, for 21 days, in lockdown.

How to survive this

So here we are, in lockdown, watching as other countries also started lockdown. Lockdown caused many immigrants to return to their home countries, probably sending some Coronavirus cases out to Africa but all in the risk of lowering our own numbers. We watch the news regularly and awaiting our president to address us. We watched as the numbers rose, as the epidemic devastated Europe daily and we grew scared that South Africa would once again top the charts of highest epidemic numbers. In the process, we have been dumped into junk status, a threat that had loomed over us for a long time and we've been there before.

Nevertheless, here we are, junked, infected, affected, and worried. How are we going to survive this? We all have opinions whilst sitting in our two-bedroom apartments alone, or with one other person that we like (or used to), our farms, our four-bedroom homes with one or two cars in the garage and fridges stocked with food and beer. There is a lot more to be worried about than sitting at home.

Lockdown fell over Easter, usually a great celebration in South Africa which means massive gatherings, the most popular one being in ZCC Moria, the largest Christian group in South Africa with about 10 million followers. Along with this it also tends to be a bloodbath on the national roads due to travellers' unroadworthy cars, drunken driving, etc.

Naturally, the death toll on the roads was almost 77% less than last year. Police had also disposed of traditional beers brewed in rural areas and threw away kilograms of meat due to South Africans trying to gather for Easter celebrations. Not only were Easter celebrations stopped, but we were also informed that our lockdown would be extended for two more weeks. This puts a lot of people in a panic, forgetting the bigger picture.

Effects of our lockdown

  • It seems that domestic and gender-based violence had remained high with almost 2,300 calls within the first week of lockdown
  • In the first week, compared to cases this time 2019, sexual assault had gone down from 699 to 101, and murder had gone down from 324 to 94, according to SANews.
  • Trio crimes (the most violent crimes like home/business invasions and hijackings) had dropped from 8853 to 2098.
  • Assaults, with the intention to cause grievous bodily harm went down from 2673 to 456.
  • The government is in the process of providing water to rural areas (this has been an issue for a number of years)
  • Homeless people have been provided shelter with measures taken to avoid the spreading of COVID-19. This has mixed reactions from the homeless and the other category people.
  • By 3 April 2020, there had been more than 17,000 arrests made in the lockdown, mainly for driving without permits/permission, selling and distribution of alcohol, price hikes at stores, selling/distribution of cigarettes, and general noncompliance of the lockdown laws.
  • There had also been a drop in complaints against the SAPS, South African Police Services.
  • Incidents at ER have dropped significantly since the banning of alcohol
  • Fresh produce like avocados has become cheaper and of better value available to locals.

This raises the question of what will happen and what will be done subsequently to protect the locals and to keep numbers down.

Are we South Africans doomed to spend the rest of our lives in lockdown for our own safety? Is looking after each other the only way we won't harm each other?

Lockdown conclusion, for now

Everyone has an opinion about the President's decision for lockdown, and now his decision for extending the lockdown. Looting of stores and liquor stores is proof of some peoples' opinions. Let's not talk about Social Media comments. Let's be honest, what would everyone do in the position that our president is in? Our country had been crippled by corruption, crime, disease, virus, racism, and xenophobia, unemployment, electricity and water supply, droughts, housing...do I need to go on? I think not. Should we be crippled by Coronavirus/COVID-19 on top of all previously mentioned?

We are not crippled as Italy is with this virus, we are not nearly as infected as the US is, and it's a few scrolls down before you see the South African death tolls on the 'worldometer' of Coronavirus deaths. Many bad things came from the lockdown, companies being closed, people being unemployed, and everyone in a panic on what the future holds but I believe a lot of good had also come from this. In a humanitarian way, we have seen that there are a lot of South Africans who want to and do help out as much as they can. A lot of problems have surfaced and caught the public's attention which would have to be solved, or at least just attended to, by the greedy hands of some politicians. I believe my fellow South Africans will have a South African Fish Eagle Eye on these politicians now that we've had a lot of time at home to catch up on news.

I believe that businesses have been forced to try and do business in other methods than the traditional methods that South Africans seem to be too scared to move away from.

Change is coming to our world as we used to know it. The question is, what will your addition be to the new and changed post-corona world?

Don't miss our page on Facebook!