DOCUMENTARY | Breaking Covid-19: How News24 covered a global pandemic

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  • As 2020 draws to a close, News24 looks back at the single story that dominated headlines and left no life untouched.
  • In this documentary, we look back at the year that changed people's lives as an invisible virus spread its tentacles around the world.
  • News24 reflects on the changes in the workplace, the psychological impact of the virus, the economic fallout and the political ramifications.

Covid-19 changed lives around the world after first being detected in Wuhan, China, in December 2019. It arrived on South Africa's shores when a man returning from holiday in Italy became our first confirmed case on 5 March 2020.

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Much has happened since then, leaving South Africa's economy in tatters and many of its people barely able to make ends meet. 

In this documentary, News24 takes viewers behind the scenes as journalists rallied to tell the story, often in dangerous situations.

News24's offices emptied out and an entirely new way of working began. Data journalism was used to turn complicated science into easily digestible graphics.

"It's seldom in your life that you get to cover a story like this. I know comparisons have been made to journalists who covered the world wars, for example, or 9/11. It's a story that impacts life at every single level," News24 editor-in-chief Adriaan Basson said.

He believes it will have an historical impact on all spheres of life for many years to come.

The perspectives of our editors and journalists are woven into the broader story of the pandemic that has left no life untouched, to bring you the story behind the story - the impact, personally and professionally, that Covid-19 has had on those working at News24.

As the year comes to an end, it seems there will be no relief - Covid-19 has not loosened its grip and a second wave of the pandemic has begun in South Africa.

The Eastern and Western Cape are currently experiencing a surge in cases.

On Monday, 14 December, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced further restrictions for the festive season to try and curb the second wave.

These included extending the curfew from 23:00 to 04:00 in a bid to prevent super-spreader events. He also announced the closure of beaches on the Garden Route and the Eastern Cape and on public holidays in KwaZulu-Natal.

Social and religious gatherings will also be limited to no more than 100 people for indoor events and no more than 250 people for outdoor events.

In his address, Ramaphosa said the average daily infections had jumped from around 3 800 per day to just more than 6 600.

Deaths in the same period had increased by almost 50% from an average of 100 a day to just more than 150 deaths a day. More than 24 000 South Africans have succumbed to Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic.

When this is all over and a vaccine has been distributed around the world, will life return to normal? News24 investigative journalist Kyle Cowan doesn't think so.

"Something like this virus that you cannot see with the naked eye can come along and essentially decimate economies and populations the world over. I think it's given us a lot to think about how life is going to look in the next 20 to 30 years. What will be the next virus?"

FEATURE | Watch News24's Faces of Lockdown series here

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