At midnight on Thursday, South Africa is going into a 21-day lockdown.
President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the lockdown last night in a speech to the nation. Although the situation we’re in is horrifying beyond measure, I feel much safer after listening to the president’s speech than I felt before. I trust President Ramaphosa to lead the country as best he can, and I’m really grateful for that. Trust in leadership is a luxury many people around the world don’t have right now.
I’m proud to be an honorary South African.
Here’s a basic outline of what the lockdown will mean logistically, courtesy of the National Department of Health:
- South Africans will not be allowed to leave their homes except under strictly controlled circumstances, such as to seek medical care, buy food, medicine and other supplies or to collect a social grant.
- Those exempt from the national lockdown include: health workers (public and private sectors); emergency personnel; security services (police, traffic officers, military) medical personnel; soldiers; and other persons necessary for our response to the pandemic.
- In addition, those involved in the production, distribution and supply of food and basic goods, essential banking services, the maintenance of power, water and telecommunications services, laboratory services, and the provision of medical and hygiene products will be exempt.
- Temporary shelters meeting necessary hygiene standards will be identified for homeless people.
Sites are also being identified for quarantine and self-isolation for people who cannot self-isolate at home.
- All shops and businesses will be closed, except for pharmacies, laboratories, banks, essential financial and payment services — including the JSE [Johannesburg Stock Exchange] — supermarkets, petrol stations, and health care providers.
- Companies essential to the production and transportation of food, basic goods, and medical supplies will remain open.
- Provision will be made for essential transport services to continue, including transport for essential staff and for patients who need to be managed elsewhere.
Everyone still has a lot of questions about exactly how all this will work. But the bottom line is virtually every South African will be at home for the next three weeks. Minimum.
Forty-eight hours from now, millions of South Africans are going to lose their livelihoods. Thousands of them already have. People are going to lose their homes and starve. People are going to get divorced, have mental breakdowns, relapse into addiction, and experience a whole host of other tragedies.
And although it hasn’t happened yet, at least as far as we know, many South Africans are going to die from this horrible fucking disease.
It’s unimaginable. It’s so painful I can barely stand it. I can barely type it. I’m not sure I’ll be able to finish writing this because I can’t stop sobbing.
Since I don’t know what else to do with myself, I’m going to publish one photo each day (see above) — with an accompanying journal entry — from now until the end of lockdown.
Also, many of you know I recently started a Patreon site to earn money for my #10SouthAfricanTowns campaign. Since #10SouthAfricanTowns is indefinitely on hold — but I still need money, like everyone else in the world right now — I’ve decided to create a special deal on Patreon: Contribute $1 per month and you’ll receive my monthly newsletter plus a special 2Summers voice note (about five minutes long) every Sunday. Visit patreon.com/2summers to listen to the voice note I published last week — people seem to like these.
Now on to journal entry number -2: Two days pre-lockdown.
2:00 a.m.: Wake up in the middle of the night. Can’t fall back to sleep (like every night lately). Toss and turn, pick up my phone, read a few news articles about the dire situation in America. Text Mom and Susanna (sister), pat Trixie (cat), scroll mindlessly through Facebook and Instagram. After approximately one hour, fall back into fitful half-sleep.
6:00 a.m.: Wake from fitful half-sleep. Lie in bed for 30 minutes.
6:30 a.m.: Walk outside, stare mindlessly into space. Cry. Walk back inside. Make coffee.
7:00 a.m.: Meditate for 10 minutes using Headspace app. Wonder if meditation serves any useful purpose. While meditating, obsess about 1,317 different issues. Come up with idea for COVID-19 Lockdown Journal.
7:30 a.m.: Unroll yoga mat, stretch, do plank exercises. Consider other potential forms of home-based exercise, none of which are appealing. Make to-do list. Pay bills.
8:00 a.m.: Freak out while considering various unpleasant lockdown scenarios. If police stop me while I’m walking/driving to buy food, will they question me because I’m foreign? Will they arrest me? What about all the undocumented immigrants who may be arrested?! Oh dear oh dear.
9:00 a.m.: Eat something. Phone call with fellow American friend living in South Africa. Mutual freak-out.
10:00 a.m.: Walk to Melville 7th Street for shopping (only two more days of walking allowed). Buy cat food from Ziggy’s Pet Pamporium. Chat with Cobi. Mutual freak-out. Attempt to buy bread from Baker Brothers — asked to return in 40 minutes.
10:30 a.m.: Walk to Spar. Buy laundry detergent, tea bags, wine. Marvel that grocery store shelves are fully stocked, including toilet paper. Engage in conversation with car guard, who comments, “You are looking very nice today! Shap.” Laugh about men who flirt in the time of corona.
11:00 a.m.: Visit Tilt Coffee for carrot and ginger juice. Chat with Lia. Freak out. (Lia perfectly calm as usual.)
11:30 a.m.: Return to Baker Brothers. Buy bread and cheesy sticks. Chat with the Baker Brothers — who look exactly alike but aren’t sure if they’re identical — and my friend Andrea (also buying bread). Group freak-out.
12:00 p.m. Walk home. Wash hands 100 times. Attempt to write article about fine-dining restaurants in Joburg (my last paid job). Give up. Stare at laptop screen. Eat something. Pet cats. Cry. Chat to friends on whatsapp. Multiple group freak-outs.
1:00 p.m.: Back up photos from old hard drive. Post photo of Mountain Sanctuary Park, shot in 2011, on Instagram. Feel nostalgic for the good old pre-pandemic days (when I was also much younger and thinner).
3:00 p.m.: Change a lightbulb. Feel grateful hardware store is still open.
3:30 p.m.: #10SouthAfricanTowns trip to Bathurst, scheduled for 20 April, is officially canceled/postponed. Indulge in self-pity.
4:00 p.m.: Begin writing this post. Cry. Freak out.
5:51 p.m. (now): Is it too early for wine?
6:12 p.m. (now): No it isn’t.
8:17 p.m. (now): Was distracted by Zoom call with women writer friends around the world. Will publish blog momentarily.
This Lockdown Journal is pretty boring. I’ll try to make tomorrow more interesting.