South Africa's year in lockdown: News24 staff look back at how their lives have changed

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On 27 March 2020, exactly a year ago, before a single person died of Covid-19 in South Africa, the country was put under a stringent lockdown - one of the strictest in the world.

This was due to serious concerns about South Africa's vulnerability amid the pandemic. The country has high rates of tuberculosis and diabetes, and the largest HIV positive population in the world.

During the first part of the hard lockdown, South Africans were confined to their homes and sales of everything from roasted chicken and cigarettes, to alcohol and certain types of clothing were banned. Many companies were forced to close due to the lockdown regulations, and thousands of businesses and livelihoods were lost. The economy shrank by 7% last year.

Over the course of the year, restrictions were sometimes eased, and then tightened again as South Africa was hit by a deadly first wave in July - and then by a much more lethal surge at the start of 2021. At the peak of its second wave of Covid-19 in January, the country saw in excess of 21 000 new infections per day. 

Despite the lockdown measures, and due in part to a more contagious variant that was first discovered in South Africa, the country's death toll has been among the worst in the world.

One year into lockdown, South Africa remains at alert Level 1, with a midnight curfew and continued restrictions on public gatherings, among many other measures.

The staff at News24 looks back at the surprising ways lockdown has upended their lives.

When the lockdown officially began W24 editor Nthabiseng Nhlapo was already on edge, preparing herself for its deadly potential. She updated her medical aid and will, and called a family meeting to get the family's ducks in a row, just to be safe. Just three months into the lockdown, she lost both her father and grandmother to the virus, weeks apart. This meant she, her mother and siblings had to stay in quarantine and battled their own Covid-19 infections.

Read Nthabi's full story hereWhen a disaster has your family's fate attached to it, quarantine is the last thing you want.

Parent24 editor Elizabeth Mamacos found it hard to breathe, struggled to sleep and was worried about her children. She stockpiled tins of tomatoes, bags of pasta, planted spinach in her garden and bought litres of milk in preparation for the worst. At the time she did not want to admit that she was scared, but she was. 

Read Elizabeth's full story hereA year ago I was scared. I admit it now

When lockdown began News24 office manager Maria Pillay thought it would last a week or two. She kept herself busy by learning to bake, being proactive with online gym classes and building a deeper relationship with God. But eight months into the lockdown when she got the news that her beloved uncle had succumbed to the virus, her world stopped spinning.

Read Maria's full story hereI thought I'd escaped unscathed but Covid-19 claimed my uncle who was like a dad to me

Wheels24 content producer Charlen Raymond's headaches, blurry vision, constant thirst, weight loss and constant trips to the toilet led to him being diagnosed with diabetes during the lockdown. "On the day I was diagnosed, my sugar was through the roof: 26! According to the GP I should have been in a coma - or dead - but, my body had enough in reserve to sustain me."

Read Charlen's full story here'I was diagnosed with diabetes despite living a relatively healthy life'

News24 Lifestyle editor Herman Eloff who spent most of his lockdown alone in his flat found himself rewatching The Office, which he says helped him through it. "I got to escape to a world pre-Covid with people that I've known for years. Their fictional lives in Scranton and their hilarious antics had no trace of the apocalyptic reality that was playing off right outside my window."

Read Herman's full story hereRewatching The Office on Netflix helped me through lockdown – here's why

Parent24 content producer Athenkosi Mndende says she was redirected to her passion during lockdown. "From a young age, I knew that my calling was in creative writing and scriptwriting. I used to write short stories and read them to my family, friends, and even teachers at school."

Read Athenkosi's full story hereThe pandemic redirected me to the path I always wanted

The lockdown took W24 intern Ayanda Mgcina on an emotional rollercoaster. At times, she found herself battling to stay afloat and felt like her mental health was competing with the virus. She had spent years completing her undergraduate studies and was looking forward to that rewarding walk on stage during what would be her graduation ceremony and celebration. And then Covid-19 hit.

Read Ayanda's full story here I was fresh out of varsity and then Covid-19 hit, leaving me unemployed and in a rut

When lockdown began, Fin24 senior investigative journalist Jan Cronje stopped using his 2006 Volkwagen Golf 5 completely. It stayed parked in the driveway for months, until one day while busy in the yard, he spotted white spots inside the car as if someone had dabbed its interior with a large, wet paint brush. It was fungus! The car had also developed an alarmingly overwhelming stench.

Read Jan's full story hereMy car developed a strange fungus after I stopped using it during lockdown

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