After weeks of experiencing one of the strictest lockdowns in the world, South Africans heard from President Cyril Ramaphosa that the lockdown restrictions would be slightly eased from the highest Level Five to Level Four. Restrictions, he explained, would shift according to the level of Covid-19 threat being faced at any one time.
As of 1 May, the country entered Level Four, which eased restrictions on movement and on certain jobs within the economy. On 5 May, we asked our participants what affect the shift to Level Four was having on their families.
Relief of Eased Restrictions
For many it was the ability to do the essentials that was the biggest relief of Level Four. ‘It has changed my life’, Thembisile writes, in Imizamo Yethu, ‘I am able to go do grocery and buy clothes for winter’. In some families, situations also changed makedly when a household member was able to return to work, like Neziswa’s husband in Shukushukuma.
Exercising outside was also a relief for several diarists. ‘The ability to exercise outdoors again, albeit in the limited 3 hour window, makes a massive difference to life‘, explains Judy, in Newlands. ‘It has really helped me mentally’, agrees Melody, also in Newlands, ‘The ability to run and walk outdoors is a great way to start the day. Trapped in a house makes one feel like a trapped rat.’ The ability to take advantage of these regulations, however, depended on where you lived and the resources to which you had access.
I know that people can order fast food and exercise within 5km outside of their homes and some of my friends that live in ‘nicer’ neighbourhoods are taking advantage of that but I don’t really live in a neighbourhood that’s safe to walk around in and food delivery services don’t come to my area – Nessie, Elsies River
For others, the brief opportunity to move between provinces was particularly welcome. ‘My friend’s mother…can go back to Eastern Cape‘, explains Nathi, in Imizamo Yethu. ‘She was stuck here in cape Town since January, she left some of her children at eastern cape, so now she is very happy that she is going back at her children and family at Eastern Cape.’ Of course, the capacity to move provinces required resources, which many did not have. As Mavis, in Block Six, explains, ‘if i was having money to go home in this 7 days that we were given to travel from the province to another province i would rather go and stay with my parents in the EC than staying here in the WC watching this situation.’
‘Things are much easier now… New borns didn’t have access to registration of birth certificate at Home Affairs and without Birth Certificate they cannot be able to go to SASSA to apply for child support grant because not all of us are fortunate. And for those who travelled back to their provinces really need to go back to work as they are bread winners they were struggling a lot financially, they are running out of food and they have families to support.’ – Kungo, Shukushukuma
Economy Remains Closed For Many
Whilst certain workers were permitted to return to work under the new rules, many were unable to do so. Others were able to re-open their business but customers were non-existent. Those who entered the Covid-19 crisis without a job were also frustrated. ‘Since am also job hunting I can’t submit my cv because most of places are still closed‘, writes Andile, in Khayelitsha, ‘I feel sad for us unemployed people.’
‘For me it’s hasn’t changed that much it’s the same…because am still at home not back [at work] as yet, the only change I am going to struggle with is the unpaid month of May as I have family to feed and child support I need to take care of my child who is still young.’ – Gift, Imizamo Yethu
‘There hasn’t been any significant change. My business is allowed to open with restrictions and guidelines but there is no work as I am a service provider. I have to wait until international travel comes back.’ – Sparrow, Newlands
Falling Levels, Rising Fear
For some the fear was so great that they continued to quarantine themselves, despite the shifting government regulations. ‘Nothing has changed in my life because I am still stuck in this house scared of going to the mall’, explains Nosiphiwo, in Khayelitsha, ‘I left the mall yesterday without doing any of what I had planned to do there’.
‘Changes are good n risky now…. Cos we can do the shopping but people. Don’t obey the law by wearing musk keeping distance, I am worried people are careless’ – Nozuko, Siyahlala
‘Generally people think that Level 4 is the opening of everything so people are being reckless. I think level 4 will bring lot of infections.’ – Ayanda, Khayelitsha
‘The shift to level 4 has made things worse in my life because in the Western Cape we are the epicenter of the pandemic and Khayelitsha has one of highest number of infections in the city. People are not adhering to social distancing in shopping malls it’s packed and there is no police monitoring that process. I feel that level 4 has put our lives at risk of contracting the virus with no strict measures in place by the government. We will fall prey to Corona virus in no time.’ – Bonga, Khayelitsha
How can the government convince people to follow protective measures such as social distancing, now that the lockdown is somewhat eased, without relying upon violent enforcement or fear?
How should we manage people’s fears as the restrictions of the lockdown decrease but uncertainty remains about contracting the virus?