Melanie Verwoerd | Day 1: How to survive the Covid-19 lockdown

Sunset before lockdown along the Sea Point Promenade. The writer says she believes there is light at the end of the Covid-19 tunnel.
Sunset before lockdown along the Sea Point Promenade. The writer says she believes there is light at the end of the Covid-19 tunnel.
Jay Caboz, Business Insider SA

There is definitely light at the end of this tunnel. The only question is how long this tunnel will be in South Africa. That will depend on how cooperative we all are in the next three weeks, writes Melanie Verwoerd.


It’s been 14 days since my family and I first exhibited symptoms of being infected with the Covid-19 virus.

Thank you for all the many good wishes and messages of support that I received after my column on Monday.

It was really heart-warming to hear from so many people, many of whom I have never met.   

There were also a few funny moments when people - whom I haven’t seen or heard from in months or even years - were seriously worried that I might have infected them. 

Ai guys!  

I also want to say a big thank you to all the medical and health professionals who assisted us.

The first night we were called by Dr. Thomas from Mediclinic Gardens who calmly conveyed my daughter’s positive result and kindly gave us his cellphone number to call if we had any concerns.

Later that night Wayne Smith from the Western Cape Health Department called, as did David Pienaar from NICD.

We have been getting daily calls from Sharon Hussey and Rayneze of the Western Cape Health Department as well as Dr. Kotze from Karl Bremer Hospital to check how we are doing and if we need any help.

Our own GP's, doctors Lynne Wolhuter, Leah Murray and Erika Drewes have all been amazing.  

I want to mention all these medical professionals by name since they and their colleagues throughout South Africa, will, over the next few months, continue to be on the front line of this epidemic by putting their own lives at risk to look after all of us. 

I know that this is starting to sound like an Oscar award speech, but I also want to thank David Maynier, the Finance and Economic Opportunities MEC who coordinates the effort in the Western Cape.

From his late night message of concern, it is clear that he is working all hours to ensure that things are running smoothly in the Western Cape. 

The past two weeks have been tough.

My daughter is not completely out of the woods yet, but my son and I am starting to feel better. We are still exhausted and every day has its ups and downs, but it is getting a bit easier. 

So after two weeks we were looking forward to coming out of quarantine ... just in time for the lockdown.

I can't deny that the thought of another three weeks of isolation fills me with some level of dread and anxiety. (Perhaps not quite as much as for my son, whom I suspect, has had enough of living in such close proximity to his mother).   

Whilst reflecting on how to survive the next few weeks, someone forwarded me an email that an Irish teacher in Wuhan had written after seven weeks of lockdown in the epicentre of the outbreak.  

I found her advice very moving. She said: 

1. Accept that you have no control over the situation. Let go of any thoughts of trying to plan too much for the next month or two. Things change so fast. Don't be angry and annoyed at the system. Anxiety goes down, and you make the best of the situation - whatever that might be for you. Accept that this is what it is and things will get easier.  

2. Try not to listen to/read/watch too much media. It WILL drive you crazy. There is a thing as too much!  

3. The sense of community I have felt during this time is incredible. I could choose who I wanted to spend my energy on - who I wanted to call, message and connect with and found the quality of my relationships has improved.  

4. Appreciate this enforced downtime. When do you ever have time like this? I will miss it when we go back to the fast-paced speed of the "real world".  

5. Time goes fast. I still haven't picked up the ukulele I planned to learn, and there are box set TV shows I haven't watched yet.

6. You learn to appreciate the little things; sunshine through the window, flowers blossoming and being able to enjoy a coffee in a cafe. To those just beginning this journey: you will get through it. Listen to what you are told, follow the rules and look out for each other. There is light at the end of the tunnel.

I agree with her: There is definitely light at the end of this tunnel. The only question is how long this tunnel will be in South Africa. That will depend on how cooperative we all are in the next three weeks. 

I will write more in the coming days, but in the mean time: obey the rules, look after yourself, look after each other and keep a positive outlook.  

- Melanie Verwoerd is a former ANC MP and South African Ambassador to Ireland

See www.melanieverwoerd.co.za

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