It’s Day 61 of the South African COVID-19 lockdown, and we’ve officially been at this for two full months. (Our lockdown started on March 27th.) A few days from now we’ll be entering Level 3 of our lockdown, so I think I’ll give a brief update on where things stand.

I’m back on the garden photo train.

COVID-19 Numbers

As of yesterday, there have been 23,615 confirmed COVID-19 cases in South Africa and nearly 12,000 confirmed recoveries. There have been 481 confirmed COVID-19 deaths. The pace of new cases has increased — for the past several days we’ve had at least 1,000 new cases each day.

More than half of the country’s confirmed cases — 15,396 — are in the Western Cape province (where Cape Town is). Gauteng (where Joburg and Pretoria are) accounts for only 2,993 cases, and the numbers in Gauteng are still increasing quite modestly compared to the Western Cape. There is speculation that the Western Cape is doing a lot more testing than Gauteng and this accounts for some of the difference. But still, after two months of lockdown, I’m amazed by how low the COVID-19 numbers are in Joburg and Pretoria.

Many scientists and modellers predict South Africa will start to see an exponential growth in COVID-19 cases and deaths, like any day now. But honestly, who knows?

Level 3

After a month on Level 4, during which a limited number of business and retail sectors were open but everyone was still more or less confined at home, South Africa is moving to Level 3 on June 1st. There will be lots of changes under Level 3, the most notable being:

  1. Nearly all business and retail sectors will reopen, with the exception of restaurants (except delivery and takeaway), bars, hotels (except for essential services accommodation), events and recreational venues, salons, and gyms.
  2. We can buy alcohol again, but only on specific days and specific hours (still to be announced). Cigarettes are still banned indefinitely.
  3. The 8:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. curfew will be suspended, but everyone is still expected to stay home except for work, school, or some other important reason (i.e. no socializing).
  4. We can exercise at any time of day (but still not in parks).
  5. Schools will reopen, but only grades 7 and 12 will return right away. Universities can only have 33% of their students in class at any one time. (This one sounds confusing — I’m glad I’m not a university student or staff member.)
  6. Domestic workers (and I assume gardeners too, although I can’t find any mention of them) may return to work as long as their employers provide them with private transport.

The summary above is based on President Ramaphosa’s Sunday night speech and the draft Level 3 regulations that were released to the media. The official Level 3 regulations haven’t been announced yet, and as we know from previous experience, things can (and probably will) change.

My thoughts on Level 3 are as follows:

  1. Other than being able to buy alcohol (which I will be doing online for the foreseeable future, as the liquor stores are going to be mobbed) and to go running at any time of day, my own life is not going to change much under Level 3. The borders are still closed. Recreational travel of any kind is still prohibited, along with pretty much all of the other things I usually do.
  2. I’m excited that Lucy, my once-a-week housekeeper, will be able to return to work, mainly because I miss her but also because I hate cleaning and I know Lucy is bored out of her mind and eager to return to work.
  3. I don’t smoke. But like pretty much everyone, I’m enraged by the continuation of the smoking ban. It’s just absurd and unfair and also it’s preventing virtually no one from smoking. Every smoker I know is still finding ways to continue doing so — it’s just costing them more money and encouraging more crime.
  4. It’s crazy that I’ve spent the last several paragraphs ruminating about what people are and aren’t allowed to do. It’s surreal that my entire life — and the lives of every single person in South Africa, and much of the world — now revolves around a strange, sometimes arbitrary list of rules.
  5. As time goes on, I find it increasingly difficult to stay focused on the reason why all these rules and regulations exist: the potentially deadly virus that’s spreading around the earth. I know, on an intellectual level, that I should be afraid of contracting the coronavirus and afraid for others to contract it. But my obsession with “the rules” and all the real-world implications of those rules has taken precedence over everything else. It’s bizarre and unsettling in a way that I can’t quite put into words.

A couple of other random observations:

  1. Unless I have a specific reason to go out (which is rare), I’ve officially ceased to wear any clothing other than pyjamas and workout attire. I usually don’t bother with underwear because it just makes more laundry.
  2. Has anyone else noticed that reading online recipes is maddeningly difficult? Like, you scroll and scroll through all this useless narrative, ads, videos, photos of the finished product from every angle, and links to other recipes, and the actual instructions for making the thing don’t appear until about ten pages down, if at all?
  3. It’s officially cold in Joburg and I’m very sad about this.
  4. New Girl and Schitt’s Creek are great shows to watch on Netflix when you don’t want to use your brain at all, don’t want to feel scared or sad, but also don’t want to be bored.
  5. I really like figs with cheddar cheese.
Figs and cheese
The item above was just an excuse to post this picture, which I shot last weekend when it was still warm enough to eat outside.

That is all.

Today’s Worthy Cause

My friend Xolani Moyo, a.k.a. Coach X, is helping organize a fundraiser for Zimbabwean nationals in South Africa.

Migrants from neighboring African countries are among the most vulnerable people in South Africa, even at the best of times, and under lockdown the situation is even more dire. Foreigners are not eligible for any of the emergency government aid (including food parcels) being offered to mitigate the economic effects of the lockdown.

If you’d like to contribute to Xolani’s initiative, please click on this GoFundMe campaign.

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