Editorial note: Natasha Kannemeyer is a Project Coordinator and MPH student with the Division in the Social and Behavioural Sciences, UCT. In this piece, Natasha uses video to capture people’s experiences of the lockdown, a measure put in place to curb the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.
This video: The Lockdown: Community Experiences, is part of a Masters in Public Health (MPH) practicum stemming from the Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdown that was imposed both globally and locally on the 26 March 2020 in South Africa.1 The lockdown and other preventative methods were implemented as a means to curb the spread of Covid-19.2,3 These methods included restrictions on physical movement (lockdown); social/physical distancing; hand washing / hand sanitising and mask wearing.2,3 The lockdown, had and continue to have a huge impact on everyone in South Africa. In the initial stages of lockdown (level 5), schools were closed; borders to both international and domestic travel were closed; there were restrictions on mass gatherings; people had to remain at home (social gatherings and social visits were not allowed) unless for essential food shopping and medical care; both formal and informal trading also ceased; and exercise was restricted.2-4
This video was produced to capture and understand people’s experiences of lockdown in different communities in Cape Town, South Africa. The feature can be used as both a teaching and advocacy tool for students, researchers, decision-makers and be shown to a broader (local and international) audience. It uses interview snippets to showcase community experiences of the lockdown and to help students, academics, researchers, decision makers and the broader audience understand what the lockdown has meant for people.
As shown in the video, people’s experience of the lockdown has varied greatly, Some people experiencing discomfort where lockdown has been stressful and inconvenient but people were able to adhere to the restrictions put in place such as to be able to socially distance, to buy food and occupy themselves at home as their lives were disrupted.5 In other, less privileged communities, people faced immense challenges when the lockdown came into effect. For some people it was
impossible to socially distance - “social distance, how can I social distance we are 20 in the house?”;
others went hungry as they could not afford food - “people would have died from not corona but starvation, so we weighed up should I fear corona or should I feed the people”;
jobs were lost;
gender based violence was a challenge - “since lockdown GBV is very high, because now the man is not at work…he is stressing now there is no income at home, so the woman is paying…may girls that were killed in our community by their boyfriends, by their husbands”;
not being able to visit loved ones in the hospital and not being able to adhere to cultural and religious burial practices was also talked about - “that coming together and mourning in our own cultural way help us to deal with those who have passed on or with a loss…these are some of the psychological scars from the covid that we are going to experience for a very long time”;
and subsequently people were unable to take care of themselves and their loved ones.5-8
The vastly different experiences of people during lockdown in South Africa can be attributed to the huge disparity between socio-economic differences between people.5,9 Furthermore, the lockdown was enforced as a top-down approach where government put restrictive measures in place, but there was little support for the most vulnerable communities.5 As South Africa is a country with an unequal distribution of wealth and resources, the these imposed measures in proved difficult to implement for those who are living in lower socio-economic areas.9
Despite the hardship experienced in low-income communities, many have come together to support each other in innovative ways (e.g. the development of the CANs – Community Action Network groups).
“…the partnership that we had all around and the collaboration that we had be it donations, be it Seapoint CAN, Seaboard CAN, all the other CANs coming together and just forming a solidarity and being their for each other, teaching each other that was the surprising part…that is what lockdown did for us”
The Movement for Change and Social Justice (MCSJ), a local health activism group based in Gugulethu, adopted flexible and adaptive processes in their approach to community engagement (for further reading and insights into community engagements: How Covid-19 changed community engagement in South Africa’s low income areas). These and other initiatives spearheaded by local leader show both the importance and feasibility of bottom-up grassroots level engagement.
Department of Health: Republic of South Africa.COVID-19 Online Resource & News Portal [Internet]. Undated [cited 2020 October 15]. Available from: https://sacoronavirus.co.za/information-about-the-virus-2/
World Health Organisation. Coronavirus. WHO [Internet]. Undated [cited 2020 October 15]. Available from: https://www.who.int/health-topics/coronavirus#tab=tab_1
The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). COVID-19: Complex reasons for different country responses. LSE [Internet]. 2020 [cited 2020 October 15]. Available from: http://www.lse.ac.uk/News/Latest-news-from-LSE/2020/e-May-20/COVID-19-Complex-reasons-for-different-country-responses
Friedman S. South Africa is failing on Covid-19 because its leaders want to emulate the First World. The Conversation [Internet]. 2020 [cited 2020 October 17]. Available from: https://theconversation.com/south-africa-is-failing-on-covid-19-because-its-leaders-want-to-emulate-the-first-world-142732
Nwosu Co, Oyenubi A. Income-related health inequalities associated with Covid-19 in South Africa. Wave 1: National Income Study (NIDS) – Coronavirus paid Mobile Survey (CRAM) [Internet]. 2020 [cited 2020 October]. Available from: https://cramsurvey.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/Nwosu-Estimating-income-related-health-inequalities-associated-with-COVID-19.pdf
Nwosu C, Oyenbui A. Covid-19: How the lockdown has affected the health of the poor in South Africa [Internet].The Conversation. 2020 [cited 2020 October]. Available from: https://theconversation.com/covid-19-how-the-lockdown-has-affected-the-health-of-the-poor-in-south-africa-144374
Wills G, Patel L, van der Berg S. South Africa faces mass hunger if efforts to offset impact of Covid-19 are eased [Internet]. The Conversation. 2020 [cited 2020 October]. Available from: https://theconversation.com/south-africa-faces-mass-hunger-if-efforts-to-offset-impact-of-covid-19-are-eased-143143
Staunton C, Swanepoel C, Labuschaigne M. Between a rock and a hard place: Covid-19 and South Africa’s response. J Law Biosci [Internet]. 2020 [cited 2020 October 17];7(1). Available from: https://academic.oup.com/jlb/article/7/1/lsaa052/5868300
Natasha Kannemeyer has a BA in Psychology from the University of Otago and is currently enrolled in the Masters for Public Health (MPH) degree at the University of Cape Town (UCT). She works in the Division of Social and Behavioural Sciences (DSBS), School of Public Health and Family Medicine at UCT as a Project Coordinator working on research dissemination for the Division through the DSBS Fieldnotes website. Her research interests lie in maternal and child health and strengthening community voices around social determinants of health. She also has a keen interest in the use of video and how this gives voice and meaning to people around the challenges they face. She is passionate about yoga, mindfulness and meditation and their use in health, wellbeing and healing.
Division of Social and Behavioural Sciences
School of Public Health and Family Medicine
Level 3 Falmouth Building
University of Cape Town