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Scenes from Meqheleng , Fickburg

The world is currently in panic as COVID-19 pandemic spreads across continents, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), COVID-19 pandemic is an infectious disease caused by a new virus – this disease causes respiratory illness like flu with symptoms such as a cough, fever, and in more severe cases, difficulty breathing. People can protect themselves by regularly washing their hands, by avoiding touching their faces, and avoiding close contact with people who are unwell.  WHO explains that COVID-19 spreads primarily through contact with an infected person when they cough or sneeze and can also spread when a person touches a surface or object that has the virus on it, then touches their eyes, nose, or mouth.

Proper hygiene and sanitation are cited to be the top preventative measures in mitigating this virus – this is concerning for South Africa where majority of vulnerable citizens in rural areas still do not have proper sanitation. In our January blog we reported a water shortage in the community of Meqheleng Free State, where citizens were left wandering for three weeks without water in December 2019. It is therefore vulnerable people and communities like this who we are worried about as COVID-19 spreads across the country, with 202 cases already reported in less than two weeks. It might be difficult for communities like Meqheleng to control the virus, if government does not quickly respond to challenges of water and sanitation as sanitizers alone will not be enough.

Our partner community paralegals across the country, live and work in underdeveloped communities where social injustice thrives at the centre of poor service delivery, corruption, lack of infrastructure and densely populated areas. Therefore, the mammoth task that is in the hands of people in order to protect and prevent themselves from being infected might be difficult due to the following:

  • Densely populated communities.
  • The taxi, bus and train industries have large volumes of commuters.
  • No self-isolation allowance for the working/poor class.
  • Lack of access to water and proper sanitation.
  • High number of people living with immune deficiency illnesses like HIV/AIDS.

However, in knowing the status of high inequality in the country, the South African government and the National Institute for Communicable Disease (NICD) and other departments have responded swiftly to the pandemic. Picking up from President Cyril Ramaphosa’s speech on Sunday evening, where he encouraged people not to panic as there are guidelines on how to mitigate the virus.

The following restrictions and measures have been put in place to mitigate the spread of the virus in South Africa:

  • All bars, taverns, and liquor stores will be forced to close at 18H00 during weekdays, and 13H00 on Sundays, with no more than 50 people allowed at these venues at a time.
  • No more than a 100 people are allowed at public gatherings. This includes funerals and weddings – which must be reported to the nearest police station in order to comply.
  • Individuals must wash hands for at least 20 seconds with water and soap or use sanitizers.
  • Avoid touching your face, nose, and eyes and that of others as far as possible.
  • Greet people using your elbow, as you are not allowed to shake hands, fist bump, hug, or high five.
  • Cover yourself with an elbow when you cough or sneeze and practice social distancing meaning you should stand 1, 8 metres away from people in ATMs, taxi-train-bus lines and other crowded places.
  • A person could be jailed for up to six months if they spread fake news about COVID-19.
  • No visits will be allowed in prisons for the next 30 days, hospital visits should also be limited.
  • Taxi-bus ranks will undergo regular cleaning and random screening for the COVID-19 virus amongst commuters.

For updates on the development of COVID-19, listen to the radio and follow the NICD page:

National Institute for Communicable Disease (NICD) – Toll Free number 0800 029 999

Compiled by: Ntombikayise Gijana

Sources: 00000000