Heather wearing a COVID-19 mask

Joburg COVID-19 Lockdown Journal: Day 0

Read all my lockdown journal entries.

Today is the day: South Africa’s COVID-19 lockdown begins at midnight. From this point forward I won’t be leaving my house except to buy food or medicine. It’s just me, the Melville Cat, and Trixie.

I bought a mask to celebrate.

Heather wearing a COVID-19 mask
Lockdown photo 0: Is it weird that I really like the way I look in this?

Today’s lockdown thoughts:

  1. As of today there are 927 documented COVID-19 cases in South Africa. There are still no documented deaths, which is remarkable compared with the virus’ trajectories in other countries. What might this mean? I hope it’s a sign South Africans are even stronger and more badass than we previously realized.
  2. The South African government has released a 16-page document outlining lockdown rules and regulations. It’s not exactly light reading, but I’ve now reviewed it twice and can’t find any instruction on the rules for when people leave their houses to buy basic essentials. How will the police and military monitor our movements? What do we need to carry with us when we go out? Where are we allowed to go, how often, and when? If anyone has answers on any of this, please comment.
  3. South Africans will not be allowed to buy alcohol or cigarettes during the lockdown. I can understand the no alcohol rule, but the cigarette thing really upsets me. I don’t smoke myself but this rule will cause major suffering among smokers — especially recovering alcohol and drug addicts, many of whom rely on cigarettes to help them stay sober. Now is not the time to force the country to quit smoking and I really hope the government reconsiders this point.
  4. I hate wasting food with white-hot passion. Last night I opened a container of halloumi cheese. Rather than being firm, like fresh halloumi should be, it was soft and watery. I put the cheese into a hot pan, and rather than browning it melted into a useless, liquidy mush. I howled with rage as I dumped the pan into the trash. Twenty-four hours later I am still infuriated.
  5. Today, I am very tired. The three days since the president announced this impending lockdown feel like the longest 72 hours of my life. I’ve spent the majority of those hours thinking through hundreds of different scenarios and possible tragedies, while also running around madly trying to exercise, be with other people, virtually check in with friends, enjoy the outdoors, buy things I need, and help others. Now I’m just quietly waiting for this metaphorical steel door to slam down and seal me off from the rest of the world. It’s scary and surreal but also kind of a relief.

I imagine many other South Africans, and people all over the world, are thinking these thoughts and feeling these feelings. Please know you’re not alone.

Lockdown Journal

Here’s how my day went:

6:00 a.m.: Wake up. Read news on phone. Panic after reading an article saying we will only be allowed to visit the grocery store closet to our home. (Sorry Melville Spar: You know I love you but your produce is inedible.) Panic again when reading Facebook post by expat acquaintance who fled South Africa last night with his family because “this country has a history of violence” and “things are going to get interesting very soon”. I could have done without that. This is why I should stop reading Facebook. (Also don’t worry Mom — we’re fine here.)

7:00 a.m.: Get up and write detailed to-do list, organized by time slot. Meditate, do stretches.

8:00 a.m.: My last neighborhood run. Cruise through Melville, Westcliff, up the Westcliff stairs and back. Rock out to Kesha. Greet people. Feel much better.

9:00 a.m.: Take bath, wash hair for my last day out in the world.

10:00 a.m.: Fill up at petrol station. Chat with petrol attendants, all of whom are frightened. They’ll be working while the rest of us are locked down. One guy says he’d rather go without pay and stay home with his family in Soweto. “I don’t want to die,” he says. Chat with Andrew, my mechanic. His shop is closing during the lockdown.

10:30 a.m.: Drive to Woolworths. Just in case I can only go to Spar for the next 21 days, better stock up on decent produce. Woolworths busy but not ridiculous. Sanitize hands excessively. Snag the last box of cherry tomatoes, along with R1000 ($60 at today’s crazy exchange rate) in other groceries. Oops.

11:30 a.m.: Drive to Sweet Tea and Chickadee for my last lunch on the outside. Commiserate with Chef Natasha. Stuff my face with delicious biscuit sandwich and order a dozen biscuits — plus two lemon bars — to take home. (Too much? I think not.) Invite Michelle and Julie to join me — we’re the only ones in the restaurant and it feels way safer than Woolworths. Linger, say goodbye, drive home.

1:30 p.m.: Walk to Love Books in search of my friend Ruth’s new book, which has just been published in time for a national lockdown. The book hasn’t arrived yet. Sigh.

2:00 p.m.: Walk to Melville 7th Street. Purchase Afro-chic face mask from Nkosibo Drycleaners. I think I got one of the last masks.

2:30 p.m.: Walk home. Wash hands vigorously. Spray mask with disinfectant and let it dry in the sun. Sit outside. Pet cats. Try on mask.

Heather in mask
Guys I love this mask.
Heather in mask
I think I’ll get really good at shooting selfies over the next three weeks.

3:00 p.m.: Tired. Take nap.

5:00 p.m.: Walk outside in hopes of hearing the country collectively sing Nkosi Sekelel’ iAfrika, South Africa’s national anthem. We’re supposed to sing it together, from wherever we are, at 5:00 p.m. Can’t hear anything from my garden and not confident enough in my indigenous South African languages to sing it myself.

5:15 p.m.: Begin to write this post.

7:45 p.m. (now): Finishing…and now waiting.

Speak to you tomorrow.

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  • Reply AutumnAshbough March 26, 2020 at 7:53 pm

    At least your mask is very stylish?

    • Reply 2summers March 26, 2020 at 8:11 pm

      Yes! I can’t believe how much I like it and I should have mentioned it cost about $1.75.

  • Reply Brenda R March 26, 2020 at 8:16 pm

    I am a committed, obnoxious anti-smoker…. but I do have to agree with you…. the govt should reconsider this anti-smoking thing. Kinda like Prohibition was in the US, it is liable to push people into finding ciggies however they can….and others to fill that need.
    I’m glad to see you do have a terrace to get outdoors! I’m in Seattle and we are seeing a huge increase in walkers and so far we can do that, but my NYC friends in high-rise apts have a tougher time. And those with kids? Fuggedaboudid!
    I love reading your point of view on SA…I had hoped to get back there this year but instead, I’m writing a memoir about growing up there. It’s essential to have a project!

    • Reply 2summers March 26, 2020 at 8:19 pm

      Thanks Brenda. Yes, living in an apartment now — with kids! — would be a nightmare. There are so many horrible things happening…Anyway thanks for the comment and glad you’re enjoying the updates.

  • Reply Ruphin Coudyzer March 26, 2020 at 8:24 pm

    government has reconsidered on cigarettes and tobacco.
    you will be able to buy it from groceries and spazas etc…
    Heard this at 16.00pm on Cape Talk News(Eye Witness News)
    Ruphin Coudyzer

    • Reply 2summers March 26, 2020 at 8:29 pm

      Ahhhh, that’s great news.

  • Reply catji March 26, 2020 at 8:36 pm

    i really can’t imagine why the cigarettes [tobacco] thing. …Reminds me of the crassness of Thailand banning vaping. Well, i know i can last the 21 days. *But* i think it will be extended.
    btw, apparently 21 days lockdown begins in /began/ in Delhi tonight. Like much else, very/most similar.

    Yes, Fb is terrible. I haven’t been there since July 2018…but now today I was thinking i must do it, i must face going through the process, and the setting up – ohh it’s a pain. Just because an old friend I want to speak to, only way I can get in touch – after I had to give up trying to create an account on Instagram. A student that was in Wuhan since beginning last year, and through the whole thing, just got out of 2 weeks quarantine in Delhi a couple days ago,…now i really want to talk to her.

    • Reply 2summers March 26, 2020 at 9:21 pm

      Yeah, sadly it’s hard to communicate without Facebook these days 😂 Thanks for the comment Catji, hope you’re well.

  • Reply Catrina March 26, 2020 at 8:38 pm

    Now I’m annoyed that I didn’t get such a cool African mask before I left. It looks really good on you!
    Please ignore Facebook comments. It’s ridiculous. South Africa will be fine. In fact, I think it will cope better than many other countries. South Africans are made of steel!

  • Reply catji March 26, 2020 at 8:57 pm

    10th floor apartment – no kids – for the past 2-3 years…a lot of benefits, but you know what’s really good now? It’s above the shopping mall – elevator and 1 minute walk to Checkers, and the pharmacy. And the entire place is fenced and the entrances are closed in the evening (although I suppose there is one open until 8 when Checkers closes, but during the lockdown it can be closed except for when pharmacies and supermarkets allowed to be open.) So if this goes on in the long term, which seems likely, there is potential for community cooperation.

    • Reply 2summers March 26, 2020 at 9:22 pm

      Ah, that’s one benefit for sure.

  • Reply Wendy Isabellr March 26, 2020 at 9:00 pm

    I love your posts. You make me laugh. Love your take on the world… And love your very chic mask. Xx

    • Reply 2summers March 26, 2020 at 9:22 pm

      Thanks so much Wendy! Hope you’re doing well.

  • Reply violetonlineisonline March 26, 2020 at 9:01 pm

    I am mostly giggling at your Spar comments…

    • Reply 2summers March 26, 2020 at 9:23 pm

      I mean…One must speak the truth in these times.

  • Reply Gus Silber March 26, 2020 at 9:06 pm

    Great journalling, Heather! I look forward to more in the series. There are no specific instructions on the protocol for going out to get “essential goods” or medicine, etc. Unless Government advises otherwise, you don’t need to carry any sort of permit with you, as is the case in other countries. It is is possible that if if a cop sees you out walking, they might ask where you’re going, since the idea is that people will not be out – this is a strict stay-at-home lockdown, one of the strictest in the world. But Government is clearly relying on people to do abide by the spirit as well as the letter of the new regulations. If you go out to the shops, you’re meant to make it snappy, just get what you need, and get home. No loitering, no lingering, and of course, no recreational walking or running.

    • Reply 2summers March 26, 2020 at 9:25 pm

      Thanks Gus! Great to hear from you. Luckily I do have a (mediocre) Spar less than five minutes walk away do I really shouldn’t complain…I think like everyone I just crave clarity. Anyway I hope you and yours are safe and well.

    • Reply Albert March 26, 2020 at 9:58 pm

      I can see that your daily journal is going to be a sanity check-in for me every day. I agree, the past few days have been exhausting and one can pick up on all the angst and panic energies out there. Chic mask BTW!

  • Reply Louise Whitworth March 26, 2020 at 9:12 pm

    I love this mask! So much better than the one I made myself this week using a napkin and a spare airplane eye mask lol.

    We took Uber yesterday to see a friend who also stays on his own for a last IRL drinks, sprayed the hell out of his car with anti bac on exit, gave him a toilet roll and a crazy cash tip and then was like… This is? when will it not be like this? ! Is this right? Hope I made him feel more comfortable, I could see the anxiety for him was huge about still driving young people around the northern suburbs :/

    As far as last I saw those who most are getting the virus in Gauteng currently are in their 30s-40s I think that’s why there as such fewer critical numbers. Like to think they’re taking the diagnosis seriously and locked up at home…

    Miss our old times dude, zipping around discovering new places. I will appreciate that life even more when this is over x

    • Reply 2summers March 26, 2020 at 9:27 pm

      Me too, my friend. Keep doing the good work. See you soon. xx

  • Reply catji March 26, 2020 at 9:19 pm



    Reminded me, something i thought of when you mentioned women writers yesterday… Rebecca West. Read?/know? Book i read few weeks ago, amazing [really], *stunning*, literally. I had to read 2 or 3 pages at a time and take a break. Early 1900s suffragette. I thought it was just travel memoirs, Yugoslavia in 1937, but it turned out to be history, social-philosophical – *profound!*…and she wrote it over the following 3-4 years. One of the most important books I’ve read – since 50+ years ago.

    • Reply 2summers March 26, 2020 at 9:38 pm

      Wow! I’ll have to check it out. The name rings a bell. Thank you.

  • Reply thirdeyemom March 26, 2020 at 10:39 pm

    No alcohol?! That sucks. We have our liquor stores as “essential services” so they will remain open during our lockdown that starts tomorrow for two weeks. It actually doesn’t matter though since I already stocked up on wine and they also do have order online/curbside pick up. I even was able to get curbside pick up at our local hardware store.
    We are also allowed to walk outside which is getting harder in our city as the walking paths are getting very very crowded with the spring weather. It is hard to maintain the proper distancing.
    Are you able to still go out on walks and runs during yoru lockdown or do you have to stay indoors?

    • Reply 2summers March 27, 2020 at 3:04 am

      No walks. No runs. No DOG WALKS. I think we’ve got it worse than Wuhan did 🙁

      • Reply thirdeyemom March 27, 2020 at 6:53 pm

        Wow, that is really really strict! We are able to walk here but people are not being smart and I’ve been advocating for people to social distance! Our lakes are going to get crowded soon. So I guess in South Africa they are doing what is truly smart to keep people socially distancing as hard as it may be. Keep those updates coming.

        • Reply 2summers March 27, 2020 at 6:57 pm

          Thanks Nicole. You too 🙂

  • Reply Nancy March 27, 2020 at 1:41 am

    Love the mask. Picture(s) of Smokey and the new one, please.

    • Reply 2summers March 27, 2020 at 3:04 am

      Those pictures are coming for sure 🙂

  • Reply Graham Burgess March 27, 2020 at 7:14 am

    Much less anxiety than your previous posts, well done

    • Reply 2summers March 27, 2020 at 7:16 am

      I guess we can get used to anything eventually 🙂

  • Reply Margaret Urban March 27, 2020 at 1:57 pm

    I worry about our small businesses and how they will come out of this – in our mutual spaces it’s Love Books and, for me, the hairdresser next to it which is my haircut place.
    About a month ago I changed my hairstyle to something much shorter; I love it; actually needs a trim now … I can sort of cut the front, top and sides myself but the back will grow into a ‘mullet’ :-/

    Exclusive Books website says they have been forced to stop trading, even online. That makes no sense. Online orders and deliveries of books by book sellers big and smaller would help us keep sane and help keep at least some people in work.

    Somehow I assumed that Takealot etc would continue trading in everything. (Perhaps because Amazon is in the USA) Not so. They can only trade in the permitted ‘essentials’. They say they are appealing.
    As for ‘essentials’ for some freelancers that includes, for example, printer cartridges.

    Guess/hope what we can get is an evolving situation…

    Thanks for your daily entries; I relate a lot!!

    • Reply 2summers March 27, 2020 at 2:10 pm

      Thanks Margaret. I know it’s just crazy how strict the rules are here.

  • Reply Anneliese Cianfanelli March 27, 2020 at 3:58 pm

    dear Heather, take courage , keep going, your messages are meaningful and important to us, I love reading your posts. Greetings A

    • Reply 2summers March 27, 2020 at 4:09 pm

      Thanks so much, Anneliese. I really appreciate that. Stay well 🙂

  • Reply mrmhf March 28, 2020 at 10:35 am

    ‪Why viral load plays a part in the severity of Coronavirus symptoms: https://myhomefarm.co.uk/coronavirus-and-viral-load

    This explanation was written by a doctor in the Midlands and elaborates on why some people get mild symptoms while others become critically ill.

    It’s also got a lot of helpful advice for families that are self-isolating.

    • Reply 2summers March 28, 2020 at 10:57 am

      Thank you this is very informative.

  • Reply Alison Simon March 30, 2020 at 4:13 pm

    Heather, I desperately need some of those masks. We have NOTHING like that here. Do you think there is any chance that they would ship some overseas if I bought a bunch of them?

    • Reply 2summers March 30, 2020 at 4:19 pm

      I wish they could! I’m sure they would love to have the business. But we’re literally all locked up at home now, not allowed to leave. No more making or selling of Afro-chic masks 🙁

  • Reply Brenda R March 30, 2020 at 8:50 pm

    These, though way more stylish, look like the homemade masks lots of people with a sewing machine are making here in the US. Very simple…two or three layers of cotton material…instructions all over the internet. While they don’t stop covid-19, they do help.

    • Reply 2summers March 30, 2020 at 9:01 pm

      Yeah exactly. I’ll wear mine the next time I go to the store.

  • Reply Brandon April 1, 2020 at 10:37 pm

    Doing great at documenting your experience! That will be valuable one day, I’m sure!

    Thanks for sharing 😄

  • Reply Kathleen April 3, 2020 at 11:23 am

    We have been in lockdown here in NSW Australian for a while now. Clever of your to start a journal. I lost my dad just before we locked down. Grief is a weirdo thing in this time. And it will be everywhere where people have died. Complicated grief from not being with their loved ones.

    It was lovely to see your cheery selfies and your mask. I am going to be sewing some of those soon

    Stay well. Hope the numbers stay good

    • Reply 2summers April 3, 2020 at 11:27 am

      Hi Kathleen,

      Thanks for the comment and I”m so very sorry for your loss. Grief is always terrible but I can imagine it’s even more difficult now (and as you’ve said it will get worse before it gets better). All the best 🙂

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