It’s Day 85 of the South African lockdown.
Two nights ago, President Ramaphosa made a speech announcing upcoming changes to the Lockdown Level 3 regulations.
During the first few weeks of lockdown, these presidential speeches felt like big sporting events. The whole country tuned in live, we all had our snacks and beverages ready, and endless Whatsapp messages were exchanged during and after the speech, analyzing every word he said. But this was the first time since the lockdown started that I didn’t watch the president’s speech in real time.
I did watch the next morning. I still think President Ramaphosa gives great speeches; in fact he brought me to tears during his powerful monologue on the explosion of gender-based and domestic violence currently plaguing South Africa. Nonetheless, the presidential speech magic of the early lockdown days is gone for me now.
The rule changes, which will presumably go into effect in the coming days, are quite extensive. Restaurants will open for sit-down dining (although not for sit-down alcohol consumption). Hair dressers, salons, and spas will open. Casinos (!), movie theaters, conference venues, and hotels (but not Airbnbs) will be allowed to open. Some sports will be allowed.
Cigarettes are still banned, as is visiting friends and family. Both of these bans are meaningless as very few people are following them. Local parks are still mostly closed, national borders are still closed, and we’re still not allowed to cross provincial borders without a special permit.
It’s become really hard to keep track of these rules, and I feel like the lockdown levels don’t mean much anymore. It’s a big, confusing jumble of nothingness, which is also a good description for the state of the world in general.
South Africa’s COVID-19 Predicament
The COVID-19 numbers in South Africa are still climbing. We had 3500 new confirmed cases yesterday and 4000 the day before. Gauteng province is seeing about 1000-1200 new cases a day at the moment, which is a big increase from last month.
South Africa’s COVID-19 death rate is still extremely low — there have been 1737 confirmed deaths so far, out of nearly 84,000 total cases. This is one consistent piece of good news and I would love to read more analysis of why our death rate is so low, but can’t seem to find much.
Low death rate or not, I’m not keen to contract COVID-19 and don’t want to endanger others to contract it either. So as long as the case numbers keep climbing, I’m also not keen to eat at a restaurant (especially while it’s too cold to sit outside), sleep in a hotel (especially since I’m only allowed to do so in my own province), see a movie in a theatre, or play slots in a casino (not that I would ever do that anyway). I am tempted to get a haircut — my hair is a tangled rat’s nest — but will probably put that off a bit longer as well. Strangely, I don’t even feel like traveling. Things are just too weird.
The one thing I really would like to do is go for a run or walk at Emmarentia Dam or the Wilds. But visiting local parks is still inexplicably banned.
Under these revised rules, I plan to continue doing exactly what I was doing before: Mostly staying home, eating and exercising at home, choosing my outings mindfully and intentionally, supporting small businesses, driving my domestic worker to and from work, supporting people in need whenever I can, wearing a mask when I leave the house, and visiting with friends occasionally (preferably outside) in a socially distanced fashion.
I can’t see myself changing any of these behaviors anytime soon, because I don’t have much choice. This is life for the foreseeable future.
The one thing I don’t want to keep doing for the foreseeable future is writing endless numbered lockdown journal posts, when it seems like our “lockdown” is probably going to last indefinitely. So I think I’m going to stop numbering after Day 100, which happens to be the 4th of July.
Don’t worry though — even after Day 100, I plan to keep up the pace of blogging daily or at least semi-daily. Right now this blog is the only thing keeping me going and occasionally leaving the house so I have things to blog about.
Today’s Worthy Cause
Today is Juneteenth, a state holiday in Texas commemorating the day — nearly three years after Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation — when the last formerly enslaved people in the United States were finally freed. Given what’s happening in the world this month, I think today is a good day to feature an American civil rights organization.
The Equal Justice Initiative is (quoted from their website): “Committed to ending mass incarceration and excessive punishment in the United States, to challenging racial and economic injustice, and to protecting basic human rights for the most vulnerable people in American society.” If you’re concerned about racial injustice and civil rights abuses in America, as I am, please consider supporting EJI.
Thank you to my friend Nina, who is running a Facebook birthday fundraiser for EJI and brought this cause to my attention.
I’ll be back on Monday for Day 88.