South Africa’s national State of Disaster was recently lifted after more than 700 days of keeping the country in lockdown, albeit on different levels.
At their worst, some of the regulations under the State of Disaster were draconian, illogical, and downright stupid.
Senior News Anchor, Morné Esben takes a look at some of the more bizarre regulations South Africans had to put up with during lockdown.
Banana bread, Zoom calls, and home fitness became a way of life for South Africans as we were asked to navigate 21 days of what became known as “hard lockdown” due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
Suddenly, we had to fundamentally change the way we were living – because we weren’t allowed to go outside.
We were all so impressed with the leadership of President Cyril Ramaphosa, who – in what became known as his family meetings – called on South Africans to rally together and to slow the spread of the deadly COVID-19.
Well, 21 days turned into 750!
And very soon after those initial three weeks, the novelty of our new-found baking skills and running around in our backyards had already become stale. We realized that we’re social beings and that we needed to interact with our friends, families, and (believe it or not) … even our colleagues!
South Africans were subjected to a raft of regulations that we needed to follow. Not only did those regulations prevent us from face-to-face contact with others, they also took away many of our vices which we desperately wanted to help make the days of lockdown a little more bearable.
Among the biggest was the ban on alcohol and cigarette sales.
South Africans resorted to making and sharing recipes for pineapple beer, while others even tried their hand at brewing craft beer – with varying levels of success. If you knew someone with a decent liquor stash at their home, you asked nicely, bartered, and even begged to dip into the aforementioned stash.
Those who simply couldn’t forego their daily cigarettes, found a way of getting their fix – even if it meant dabbling with sub-standard illicit brands to circumvent the ban.
Then the country’s Trade and Industry Minister, Ebrahim Patel, even banned certain kinds of clothing!
Retail stores were only allowed to sell “closed-toe” shoes – and could only sell short-sleeved t-shirts if they were to be worn under other garments like jerseys and jackets.
One particular lockdown regulation that got me hot under the collar was when they banned the sale of hot pies and rotisserie chicken. It was at that point that I started to consider that maybe our leaders had gone stark-raving mad!
How exactly would selling hot foods in places allowed to sell cold foods contribute to the spread of the Coronavirus?
But, just when we thought the regulations couldn’t get any more baffling, the 2020 / 2021 festive season kicked off with the President announcing that beaches and rivers were off-limits for the festive season. The reasoning was that people tend to gather in large numbers at beaches and rivers and that it would promote the spread of the virus.
I remember watching videos of police officers diligently chasing surfers off the otherwise deserted beach.
But we know now that beaches are actually one of the best places to go. The wide-open spaces promote social distancing in ways crowded residential areas can’t, there’s fresh air going into your lungs and the seawater itself has mental and physical wellness attributes. So looking back, Government definitely got it wrong there.
Thankfully, our leaders have since come to their senses and, barring those initial weeks, they’ve seemingly looked to strike a balance between keeping the public safe and slowing the spread, while also trying to make sure that people can return to economic activity.
As more and more people get vaccinated, economic activity is now almost back to pre-pandemic levels and with the State of Disaster lifted, there seems to be some semblance of normality.
But the health experts are warning us of a fifth wave approaching, so it’ll be wise for us to not completely discard the non-pharmaceutical interventions like mask-wearing, sanitising, and avoiding massive gatherings just yet.
Anything to avoid a descent back into lockdown and the empty shelves where toilet paper used to be.