Fighting to Live During a Nationwide COVID-19 Lockdown
On March 15, South Africa waited with bated breath for its president to address new measures to fight COVID-19. Countless messages of anticipation cycled between family and friends in those moments.
“Do you think schools will be closed?”
“What will happen to our jobs?”
“Will our hospitals be able to cope?”
“Do you think I will survive?”
President Cyril Ramaphosa urged everyone to realize the severity of the pandemic before he announced the closing of schools across the country. Many businesses also have closed. As of March 16, South Africa has 61 confirmed cases of COVID-19. We can’t afford to have this disease spread further.
In 2017, The South African Medical Journal noted that we have about 102,000 hospital beds. The hospital bed utilization rate on average in 2017 was 68.3 percent. Based on that data, across the entire country, we have almost 32 percent of 102,000 beds available, or about 32,000 beds.
Even if nonessential beds are emptied, my country will be in danger. Additionally, about 450,000 people in South Africa develop tuberculosis every year, and lung disease heightens the lethality of COVID-19.
Will we have enough beds?
Poverty and pandemic
Personal hygiene is of the utmost importance, but getting society at large to wash their hands more frequently is difficult when more than 50 percent of South African households don’t have piped water, and 12 percent have no access to water at all.
A majority of our population lives in poverty. How is social distancing practiced when many families sleep five people per room? Plus, many don’t have paid leave, so no work means no pay. When a family of five survives on one income, missing work is unthinkable.
So, to put this crisis into summary: A highly contagious virus is spreading like wildfire between people. These same people ride in overloaded transport, jam-packed like sardines with often double the number of passengers than should be permitted. They live bundled together under the breadline and have no means to practice appropriate safe hygiene. There is a high percentage of vulnerability due to tuberculosis. In 2017, South Africa’s healthcare was ranked 119 of 195 in the world.
Do you understand my concern?
My community is on lockdown for the next two weeks. My husband shopped this morning and sent me photos of empty shelves — no meat, bread, vegetables, or toilet paper. What will happen to those who already struggled to survive before COVID-19 hit? How will they afford to live?
This is our reality of living in a country steeped in impoverishment.
We are crying.
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