Diary Pages: COVID-19

For weeks our diarists have spoken about the many consequences of lockdown. However, very few have spontaneously mentioned the impact of the COVID-19 virus itself on their lives. To understand if the virus was starting to have more of an impact we asked: Have you or anyone you know been directly affected by the COVID-19 virus? While the majority of respondents haven’t yet been directly affected by the virus, for others there has been a notable shift. The virus is now in many of the communities where diarists live, and it is affecting their lives and those of their loved ones.

I am not affected  – and I don’t know anyone personally who is

The large majority of our diarists explained that they were not affected by the virus, nor did they know anyone in their circle of family or friends who were. Indeed almost all our respondents from Khayelitsha, were similar to Bonga, who had not yet ‘seen or heard of a person that has been affected or infected by Covid 19′. In the suburb of Newlands, Melody too ‘touch wood’, does not know anyone who has ‘yet been affected’. Sibusisu in Woodstock has, ‘got nothing much to say about the issue since I haven’t come across to anyone I know who’s got a disease or who got Covid-19′.

Several diarists pointed out while they did not know anyone personally who was affected they had heard stories from the media, including radio, TV and social media outlets. Living in Khayelitsha China hears from ‘the radio and television on cases increasing everyday especially in Khayelitsha’.

‘No there is no one that I know that has the virus because the people are sitting at home we only hear of  these cases on the news or on social media’. Nomaxabiso, Khayelitsha

There is a concern voiced by some that information is being withheld about where the virus is spreading. Hope who lives in Blikkiesdorp explains that ‘If someone’s got Covid-19, they don’t tell us where or who it is or what side in our [area] it is’.

‘It is really weird that we have heard about confirmed cases within the community…which is really something to be curious about because some people would really like to see evidence or physical proof in order to abide by the rules and I think that’s the case with the people in this community, as much as the news is another reliable source’. Lwando, Imizamo Yethu

Indeed, respondents are concerned that the virus is coming but that people are not taking it seriously.

‘I’m worried that soon enough people I may know may be contacted by it, because no one is wearing a mask in my area only when they go to shops or taxi rank’. Kungi M, Shukushukuma

‘I know someone who knows someone’

While for most of our diarists the virus is not prevalent within their immediate networks, many knew someone who knew someone who had the virus. This association was often through the work place or through grocery stores.

At Bonga’s  sister’s workplace ‘there are people who tested positive and they were asked to stay at home in isolation and now my sister and all her colleagues are screened before commencing work‘.

‘My cousin sister that am living with works @ a retail store & one of the employees was found positive & she had to stop going to work until tested which is unlikely to happen as we know you don’t get tested in our local clinics without symptoms.’ Thando, Khayelitsha

Other diarists lived near facilities that had been closed down due to Covid-19 diagnoses.

Lilly, in Woodstock, describes how a grocery store employee was recently quarantined and the shop then ‘shut down for that day and the next two for fumigation’. Lindz who lives in an occupation in Seapoint also describes how a supermarket near her is ‘closed due to 47 cases of Covid 19. That is really putting a strain on many of us. This means even those who can afford to go buy those who have money are stuck now. It means they will have to drive to other areas to go buy. Those who are like me with no car and no money are in trouble‘.

It’s become close to home because the day hospital in our area has been closed because a nurse tested positive… But that facility has closed down and its beyond scary now because I mean that’s  where people go for their basic health care…So now, where do these people rush to…its actually painful and its sad. Nicole Lavender Hill

The virus is close to home

A few of our respondents were either concerned they may have the COVID-19 virus, or knew someone close to them who did. A diarist from Khayelitsha noted that ‘My wife and I have had similar symptoms last week and we got tested, they said it will only takes 3 to 5 days to get your results we are still waiting and now we can’t work.

A diarist from the Southern suburbs of Cape Town has a family member who has been admitted to hospital and ‘we actually can’t go visit because of the Covid-19 so that’s also scary. So, I mean, what if this person contracts the virus or something and then I would have never seen him and the state I last saw him in was complete shambles, you know. So, it’s really…It’s so so real…Its so so scary.’  Several respondents had close friends who were ill. Lumkile from Khayelitsha noted, ‘Yes 1 of my friends was affected by the COVID 19 virus, she was diagnosed last week and is quarantine in hospital‘. 

One diarist who lives in the CBD had been deeply affected by COVID-19, with multiple friends and family dying.  ‘it’s emotionally draining’, they wrote, ;When you know your loved ones are suffering alone. That you are unable to visit and support them during this difficult time. There’s no closure, you can’t view the decease face, you can’t attend the funeral to have your final goodbye‘. ‘It’s traumatizing’, echoed Ash, from Delft,  ‘those close to the person are scared of the possibilities that they may be infected also, or the infected person may not make it. It’s just fear!’

Several diarists did not have close family or friends who were confirmed as having the virus, but were nonetheless concerned about those close to them who have to be tested.

Just got word my sister in law [is] going into isolation her manager confirmed Covid . The family devastated crying she gone for testing at …hospital…I [made] preparation just in case I get infected. This can befall on anyone we must put measures in place for when it happens. Diarist from Cape Town

We [were] notified today by my sister that works at a health, beauty and pharmacy store that her [colleague] has tested positive for COVID-19 and the entire store is on their way to hospital for screening and testing. We anxiously awaiting her feedback and results. She’s been crying since hearing this and was taken to hospital now. We are worried terribly about our elderly mother. Diarist from Cape Town.

I know survivors, who are recovering

Finally, some of our diarists knew people who were either recovering or fully recovered from the virus. A diarist in Woodstock has an aunt who tested positive, but ‘she is doing good now. She was in a special room for three weeks now…she was not upset…her family was also tested they all was negative‘.

Similar, a diarist in Delft  reported that ‘On Monday I went to…collect my money from this lady when…her father’s sister…told me she [is] the survivor of Covid-19.  I didn’t believe but the survivor herself told the story and I was cool because she is fine. Diarist from Delft


Does the nature of the way the COVID-19 spreads – creating hotspots- mean some will have more loss than others?

Are workplaces and grocery stores key areas where the virus spreads?

What contingency plans are in place for citizens if healthcare facilities are temporarily closed due to COVID-19?


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