MY STORY: My experience in state quarantine

S'nothile Gumede. (PHOTO: Supplied)
S'nothile Gumede. (PHOTO: Supplied)

After leaving South Africa on an exchange programme to the University of Leipzig for her master’s degree in visual arts, nothing could prepare for what would hit the world, while so far from home.

S’nothile shares her story of being stuck in Germany amid the coronavirus outbreak and her time in state quarantine in South Africa, upon her return.

Here’s her story.

“I left South Africa on 28 September 2019 after receiving an Erasmus Mundus scholarship to participate in the bilateral programme between Stellenbosch University and the University of Leipzig. 

This was a five-month academic project aimed at bolstering a relationship between the two institutions, with an additional month I’d set aside for travelling which makes a total of six months.

I’d read and learned about the spread of the coronavirus on various social media platforms.

With South African citizens taking parody pictures, changing their social media usernames or handles to things such as “QauranQueen” to mock the killer virus, panic buying, the decline in sales of the popular Corona cider etc, it all felt like mass hysteria to me, a state of mind.

The effects started feeling more tangible with the increasing number of reported cases and deaths.

On the other hand, the idea of being oceans apart from home at a time when the world has decided to set itself on fire was rather terrifying and overwhelming, but I found solace in friendship.

On the 28th of March, my flight was cancelled due to the South African enforcement of the national lockdown.

Many people were in a similar position and as a result the South African government decided to prioritise bringing everyone home. The goal of evacuating people was achieved in partnership with South African Airways (SAA) and their friendly volunteer cabin crew.

We were evacuated on grounds that we agree to take all the necessary medical exams and furthermore be state quarantined.

Upon our arrival on 8 April 2020, we were taken to one of the state quarantine sites in Pretoria, under the supervision of the department of health, where tests were performed.

These tests included temperature readings, saliva swabs, and mucus samples.

The space in which we were quarantined was hygienic, government employees who were volunteering were so kind and took great care of us and the meals were amazing, but to some degree it felt like a hospital.

I don’t think I ethically have license to disclose the demographics or statistics about the results, but I personally tested negative.

As a South African citizen, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the South African government’s contingency plans for the coronavirus effects – the effort they’ve put in to ensure medical attention is given to victims of the virus, that everyone else who’s at the risk of contracting the virus is protecting themselves as well as others by merely staying at home – given the government’s history of being unable to deliver.

Contingency plans serve as proof that we should pressure the government for necessary changes to occur in South Africa, provided they’re capable but indifferent.

To everyone who wakes up every day and puts their life on the line for us, thank you.”

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