Tomorrow, at the stroke of midnight on the 26th March, South Africa will officially enter a state of national lockdown, which will last for a period of 21 days. This, in a bid to slow the spread of the novel corona virus (Covid-19) and so #flattenthecurve of infections.
The first confirmed case of Covid-19 in South Africa was reported on the 5th March 2020 and on the 15th March, President Cyril Ramaphosa saw fit to declare a national state of disaster.
As of today, there are 709 positive Covid-19 cases in the country. If the experience of other countries has taught us anything, it is that the number of infected cases will continue to rise unless we severely restrict the movement and social contact of people.
Each country has its particular concerns in regard to containing the spread of the novel corona virus, and South Africa is no different. Chief amongst them, the significant number of those living with HIV AIDS in our country as well as the prevalence of tuberculosis in the population. The cramped living conditions of the majority of our people together with the lack of access to basic amenities, such as water serves only to exacerbate the situation.
As the President explained in his address to the nation on Monday evening, millions of South Africans would be saved from infection and the lives of hundreds of thousands would be spared – if we as a nation act now.
Indeed, you can be proud of the President’s decisive action and the support that has been shown by the opposition parties and across the various sectors, including the business and religious sectors in response to the threat that Covid-19 poses to the people of South Africa.
But make no mistake, the lockdown will require sacrifices to be made by all of us not the least of which is the limit on freedom of movement, assembly, religion and the right to privacy in a way that many of us have never experienced before.
As your work does not fall in the category of essential services, as determined by the regulations drafted in terms of the Disaster Management Act, it will be compulsory for you to stay at home unless you require food or medical supplies or medical attention. In fact, the army has already been deployed to assist the police in making sure that these measures are implemented and observed.
For if we do not act now, the already rapid increase in the number of those testing positive for Covid-19 indicates that the number of infected people will continue to rise at an alarming rate, from a few hundred now to possibly hundreds of thousands within a few weeks.
All of this you already know.
So, what will life in lockdown be like?
A likely mix of work, homeschooling, domestic chores, fun and, most certainly, a degree of domestic chaos but not necessarily in that order, most days. Not forgetting exercise in some form as well.
You will still be able to have contact, albeit virtual with your family and loved ones everyday and you will be able to keep abreast of what is happening in South Africa and beyond, all courtesy of social media.
Church as you know it has already adapted to the recent rules of social distancing and limited contact by going online. As of last Sunday, the sermon is preached on Facebook Live, which you can now enjoy from the comfort of your own home. This week, your study at home has been set up with the lighting and equipment necessary to air the Facebook Live, as it is unlikely that your husband will be allowed to visit the church office on Sunday mornings during the lockdown.
You will, of course, be concerned for your husband’s health and safety as he continues to spend part of his time practising as a medical doctor, and will feel equal parts dread and pride every time he mentions the idea of volunteering in the hospital setting, should the government make such a call for assistance. Even though you wouldn’t have it any other way.
Needless to say, there will be opportunities to teach, to learn and to grow every day you are in lockdown.
Your patience will be tested. Your frustration levels may soar. And you may even become acquainted with cabin fever.
You will also need to manage the boredom and frustration of those close to you, particularly your children, who will need help redirecting how they feel in constructive ways.
It is in these moments that you will have to remind yourself of why the lockdown is important and necessary:
To delay the spread of the virus so that our health system (both public and private) is not overwhelmed by the number of those who are infected at the same time and so that those most vulnerable may have access to the care that they need when they need it for as long as they need it.
Your faith in God may be tested, perhaps as never before. But do not give in to fear. No matter the news headlines that day or even what the experts say.
So be sure to fellowship with God on a daily basis, to read the Word and pray. For though we face an indiscriminate foe, the battle does indeed belong to the Lord.
And this battle is no different.
For in just a little while, when the lockdown is complete, and you can revert to normal life, you will be amazed at what has been accomplished not only on an individual and family level but also on a national level.
You will be amazed at the stories of ordinary South Africans doing extraordinary deeds while standing shoulder to shoulder to eradicate this disease from amongst our people and from our land.
And you will value your health as never before.
You will value your freedom of movement as never before.
You will treasure time with family and loved ones as never before.
And on it goes.
As I end this letter, how fitting it is that the President has called for a day of national prayer on the 26th March before the lockdown commences.
Many prayers have already gone before our God but how special and significant this time of prayer promises to be as we stand united as a nation on the verge of declaring war on this our invisible foe.
There is no one greater nor more powerful than God and I gladly place myself and my loved ones as well as all the people of this great land into His loving care knowing that He who is faithful has promised to never leave us nor forsake us.
Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika! God seën Afrika! Lord bless Africa!