Since my last post, only a week and a half ago, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in South Africa has increased more than ten-fold (currently 709 according to the official government website). So on Monday evening our president once again addressed the nation to announce the next step: lockdown. As of midnight tonight, for the next three weeks, all South Africans except those providing essential services will be confined to their homes. We can leave to go to the doctor or to buy essential foodstuffs and medicine only.
It’s scary. Neither the missus nor I have been sleeping well, and since yesterday I’ve been walking around with a spasm in my neck muscles so severe that I can’t turn my head or raise my right hand above shoulder height. (And I thought my stress levels hit the ceiling when I found out on Saturday that the beach had been closed…).
But I also know it’s the right thing to do, and I’m glad the powers that be are doing this sooner rather than later.
Watching our president’s speech on Monday evening it was reassuring to see him stand there, clearly exhausted, but exuding confidence, calm, and decisiveness (I don’t even want to imagine what it would have been like had we still had the previous guy in charge…)
Less reassuring are some of the statements of his cabinet since, with some of them apparently believing threats and intimidation is the way to get our unruly little country to get in line. I can’t help but feel some of them are enjoying the opportunity to impose their wills on us just a little too much, and I’m very afraid of the long term consequences if this state of disaster is maintained for too long.
Pessimistic? Maybe. But that’s only because I know my history, and while I know that with great power comes great responsibility, I also know that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
How are we holding up? Aside from the fact that I can’t go run out my frustrations on the beach (or at all) and the minion suffering from serious social withdrawal (somehow us two introverts managed to spawn a social butterfly), we’re doing fine. I’m in the very fortunate position that my job is not affected, and aside from not going out at all, our lifestyle is not changing significantly for now. And we’re all three still in perfect health, which is the biggest thing to be thankful for.
We went for our flu shots on Tuesday (that had already been planned before the lockdown announcement) and while the queue at the pharmacy was crazy-long, people were calm. But we could see the dispensing staff and clinic nurse were exhausted, even at 9 in the morning already.
I went into town again this morning for our weekly fresh fruit & veg run and to get bread and milk, and while there were queues outside some shops, those were mostly due to stores trying to limit the number of people let inside at a time, rather than people rushing in droves to stock up. The bread, milk and meat shelves were understandably a bit bare, but otherwise it appears that, in our town at least, people have been behaving when it comes to shopping responsibly.
The cashier at the supermarket was not thrilled at still having to work while everyone else is safe at home. Conversely the car guard in the parking lot was visibly distressed at the fact that he’ll have no income at all for the next three weeks. I tipped him a lot more than I usually do. I hope enough other people have also been over-tipping their car guards, waiters and delivery people the past week. The next three weeks will be much, much tougher one some people than others.
These are unusual times. Wherever you are, and whatever the current situation over there, stay safe, and if at all possible, stay home. Not just to protect yourself, but to protect others as well.
This too shall pass, so have hope. And if you feel yourself losing hope, call someone. We’re all in this together, and just because you’re isolated it doesn’t mean you’re alone.
For those of us in South Africa, if you find yourself in a dangerous situation at home, or at the end of your rope, these might help:
- Domestic violence helpline: 0800 150 150
- Childline: 0800 055 555
- Lifeline: 0861 322 322