The impact, already, is devastating. Let us not downplay it, as there are reports of unethical dismissal, no pay for many workers. Those who operate taxis owe banks but will not have customers. Yesterday, I heard a heart wrenching caller on the radio asking for help because he is already faced with the choice of either paying the rent or buying groceries for his family.
Honestly, I felt so overwhelmed as I listened when President Cyril Ramaphosa announced measures to contain the corona virus a few nights ago, specifically a lock down. I sat there not sure how to feel and this has been the feeling until today. Whether people agree or not, South Africa’s hard-won democracy in 1994 has been incredible, it has meant free movement, freedom of speech, we don’t ever see the army grace our streets, instead we’re used to seeing a blasé police force, grumpy and uninterested as they stamp your documents for official purposes.
Living to see lock downs, shut down and the military stepping in is unimaginable in a country like South Africa (we are called “the land of the free”), it’s the stuff I read about during apartheid where state of emergencies were called to oppress our nation! I worry about the rest of the continent where these relief packages will not be on the cards, where health personnel don’t even have protective gear as reported in Zimbabwe, or where anything military related may not mean prevention but instead the abuse of human rights and where so much will be hidden and swept under the carpet. All we have to comfort us now are these handwashing videos. To top it off current and new movie and television productions have all stopped (crying, sobbing, wailing…), oh, wait a minute: can’t Marvel heroes step in now? Well, at least, we still have Netflix and YouTube (for now) because even video quality is being cut to accommodate the gridlock.
The virus has unsettled us all, our lives, our normal routine, our everything has been turned upside down in a matter of weeks. I applaud the President’s relief packages which include cushioning the blow for small businesses and workers affected by the virus and setting up a solidarity fund but how this will be implemented is a discussion for another day.
The best way to describe how I am feeling, is: I haven’t bought the toilet paper yet but I am panicked, I am afraid, when it comes to #COVID_19 so much is unknown and we are all affected. News from Wuhan – that a second wave of infections looms – doesn’t sound reassuring.
I heard similar stories from both the US and here where those meant to finish school are the most stressed, it means lost dreams and hopes, devastating on youth who want to begin their lives, you know that life after school feeling.
Colleagues and friends calling me during this time have similar emotions, it is a pandemic with some connectivity which I am thankful for and all that is keeping me sane. To quote a Youth Lead’s South Africa Ambassador, Asonele Kotu –
“As I hear the rising number of cases (now approx. 709) and listening to these sorta wartime speeches, my body just went numb, I started to panic thinking holy shucks, doomsday has arrived”
Strength to you all, everywhere during this time, here’s to more virtual parties (cries again as a social butterfly). Don’t judge me, I always have and will wear my lipstick to make me feel better on these skypes, zooms and the likes as we move ahead in times like these.