Three months into lockdown, it is hard not to feel despondent. I need to find ways to keep my chin up and press on while observing Covid-19 protocols.
27 March 2020 will be etched in our collective memories as the first day of our national Covid-19 lockdown. For many of us, that day was like the first day of an unplanned holiday. In good faith, we welcomed the idea of the lockdown. We felt that while the government and the health department requested a 21-day lockdown to prepare the health services for the pandemic, we would use the time constructively.
Staying home and not going to our places of work seemed like not a bad idea. We could catch up with all those pesky things that we had put aside for so long – there were garages to clear out, walls to paint and all those books to read. And everyone was suggesting that this could be a time to learn a new skill. Nobody thought too much about the implications as we rushed out to buy extra toilet paper (why?) and stocked up on hand sanitisers. The more informed among us warned that Wuhan, in China, where it all started, had locked down for 72 days. But we were not bothered. We are South Africans and when the chips are down, we’re up for anything.
Now, as we enter 88 days into lockdown on 22 June 2020, I am starting to take strain. I used to enjoy living on my own. I revelled in the fact that I was not accountable to anyone. I could come and go as I chose, meet my friends whenever and wherever, and generally live according to my own rules. Now, as we mitigate the Covid-19 pandemic with restrictions on our movements, with physical distancing and the closing of public spaces, being on one’s own is very different. I am constantly feeling alone, and my enthusiasm is waning.
Other than for watching the news, television no longer entertains me. I have a few half-read books scattered about, indicative of my lack of concentration. All my inner resources seem to be spent. The exercise window that was granted when we moved from Level 5 to Level 4 was an incentive to get out of bed and participate in the collective communal stretching of limbs. It was encouraging to join the neighbours as we jogged or walked around the neighbourhood.
Now, on Level 3, the exercise window has been extended and there is no need to fear missing out. This new situation, however, coincides with the arrival of winter, which makes lying in more appealing, and which further adds to the dark mood that I am frequently experiencing. The restriction on inter-provincial travel further compounds the situation.
I am trying to wean myself off social media. I am tired of the self-righteous whinging that passes off as social commentary. Any counter opinion is quickly shot down as naïve, or worse, being accused of not understanding the real motives of the government. The main gripe from this group seems to be the requirement to follow regulations, whether it be the compulsory wearing of face masks or the restriction of certain commercial activities or the consumption of prescribed consumer items.
The biggest insult, it seems, is that the government is treating us like children. Pointing out that many other countries have the same or similar regulations in place makes no difference to their arguments. Making references to the global impact that the pandemic has had on the economies of the major countries does not help either. I have tried pointing out the situation in the US where many people have also chosen to ignore the regulations. To date, almost 25% of all deaths globally have taken place in the US and the numbers are still rising.
In Spain and Italy, the two European countries worst hit when the global pandemic started, the number of infections, and consequently, the number of deaths, have gone down, because people have abided by the stiff social regulations that were put in place. No complaining about not being treated like adults, because the Italians and the Spanish have seen first-hand the devastation that Covid-19 wreaks, if left unchecked.
I am sure that I am not alone in feeling slightly despondent. But I also know that if I hope to get out on the other side, I am going to have to find ways to be more positive. Thank goodness for technology. I am able to have weekly Skype sessions with the family who are scattered far and wide. I have hooked up with long lost friends and catching up is a joy. Since it is now permissible, I have gone on walks with friends. Difficult to have a conversation while maintaining the proper physical distancing protocols and wearing a face mask, but it breaks the monotony of walking alone.
On 5 March 2020, South Africa recorded its first Covid-19 death. Now three months later, we have more than 92,000 recorded cases and almost 2,000 deaths. We don’t have to wait for the bodies to pile up. We know that we are in the middle of a catastrophe. It is important that we encourage each other to be responsible in our behaviour.
There is no chance of any of us resuming our old lives or lifestyles before a vaccine is developed. We are simply going to have to take personal responsibility for our individual situations. For me, that means avoiding crowded spaces, limiting my excursions outside the confines of my house and maintaining all the Covid-19 protocols that we have been taught over the past few months. But above all, I need to find a way to blot out the noise of the doomsayer.