Faces of Lockdown: How Covid-19 changed life in South Africa

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When South Africa went into a national lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus in March 2020, life changed overnight and had drastic implications for many people. In addition to the impact the lockdown had on people’s jobs, incomes and daily routines, it affected many people in unexpected ways. News24 spoke to ordinary South Africans – a cancer patient, a former addict, and a sangoma, among others – to paint a picture of what life was like in South Africa under lockdown.

At the start of this year, millions of people around the globe took to their journals to plot out their plans for the months ahead. Many of these included travel, business ventures, sporting endeavors or cross-country relocation.

But then the novel coronavirus broke out and put the world on an indefinite pause. On 5 March, South African Health Minister Zweli Mkhize confirmed the country’s first positive case of the deadly virus. In the same month, the WHO declared the outbreak a pandemic. With a vaccine for the virus still in development, several countries had to shut down, as a means to curb its rapid spread.

On 23 March, with the number of infections at 402, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a 21-day nationwide lockdown.

“This is a decisive measure to save millions of South Africans from infection, and save the lives of hundreds of thousands of people,” Ramaphosa said in his address to the nation. Schools closed, physical distancing was enforced and South Africans were restricted from leaving their homes. The buying and selling of alcohol and cigarettes were outlawed. Slowly, wearing a face mask in public became the norm.

In a subsequent national address, the president asked the nation to “endure even longer” and extended the lockdown. Although initial restrictions have subsequently eased, the country is unlikely to ever go back to normal. Life as we knew it has changed, but the extent and scale of this change is still unforeseeable.

For many South Africans, this was the first time their freedoms were restricted and many citizens weren’t sure how to deal with the virus and its ramifications.

In a bid to better understand how South Africans were adapting to a new normal, News24 spoke to several citizens across the country, to find out how they were living through the pandemic.

In this series of video and audio features, we set out to highlight the experiences of a wide range of South Africans, all living in lockdown. In total, the series consisted of a podcast and several video features, all hosted on a special site.

The entire team of News24 multimedia journalists set out to find interesting subjects, willing to share their stories with us.

We tried to find people in different sectors, all who had been impacted by lockdown but in different ways. The ban on alcohol and cigarettes for example meant that South Africans addicted to these substances weren’t able to get their fix. Acclaimed author Melinda Ferguson was happy to share her experience as a former drug addict with us. She had been vocal about experiencing the same kind of feelings in the lockdown period as she did when she was a hopeless drug addict.

World News Day 2020

When homeless people were rounded up off the streets and placed in temporary shelters, we spoke to Neo Letlape who said he wasn’t aware of the lockdown and did not understand what people were talking about initially.

Nuraan Osman director of the Ihata shelter for abused women and children was faced with the difficult task of ensuring people’s basic human rights were met while trying to make sure everyone is protected inside the shelter.

When the hunger crisis made headlines we headed out to Lavender Hill to speak to community activist Lucinda Evans who is doing her best to keep her community fed.

Each of the stories was compiled with great care. While South Africans were isolated we wanted them to know that they were not alone and that others were going through similar experiences.

The goal of this project was to place the people of South Africa, their triumphs and disappointments, failures and successes, front and center in the story of Covid-19 in South Africa.

Link to project: https://specialprojects.news24.com/FacesOfLockdown/index.html#group-Melinda-Ferguson-HlRsoXwkrL

Bylines: Amy Gibbings, Aljoscha Kohlstock, Bertram Malgas, Catherine Rice, Chanté Schatz, Nokuthula Manyathi, Nomvelo Chalumbira, Sharlene Rood

Indian Printer and Publisher is one of the 150 publications supporting World News Day and we will be publishing shared stories from around the world with an emphasis on stories from the Indian newsrooms such as The Hindu Business Line, The Quint, and The Indian Express that have made their stories available, as well as a couple of our own stories.

Our own stories concerning the education, publishing and print industries that we are putting forward to share in the celebration of World News Day are: Indian government Stop Print! by Shardul Sharma; Indian media fatalities to virus exceed those to violence by Nava Thakuria; Indian print media to lose Rs 18,000 crore in FY 20-21 by Naresh Khanna; and, The end of the great international trade shows? by Ron Augustin

2023 promises an interesting ride for print in India

Indian Printer and Publisher founded in 1979 is the oldest B2B trade publication in the multi-platform and multi-channel IPPGroup. While the print and packaging industries have been resilient in the past 33 months since the pandemic lockdown of 25 March 2020, the commercial printing and newspaper industries have yet to recover their pre-Covid trajectory.

The fragmented commercial printing industry faces substantial challenges as does the newspaper industry. While digital short-run printing and the signage industry seem to be recovering a bit faster, ultimately their growth will also be moderated by the progress of the overall economy. On the other hand book printing exports are doing well but they too face several supply-chain and logistics challenges.

The price of publication papers including newsprint has been high in the past year while availability is diminished by several mills shutting down their publication paper and newsprint machines in the past four years. Indian paper mills are also exporting many types of paper and have raised prices for Indian printers. To some extent, this has helped in the recovery of the digital printing industry with its on-demand short-run and low-wastage paradigm.

Ultimately digital print and other digital channels will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future. For instance, there is no alternative to a rise in textbook consumption but this segment will only reach normality in the next financial year beginning on 1 April 2023.

Thus while the new normal is a moving target and many commercial printers look to diversification, we believe that our target audiences may shift and change. Like them, we will also have to adapt with agility to keep up with their business and technical information needs.

Our 2023 media kit is ready, and it is the right time to take stock and reconnect with your potential markets and customers. Print is the glue for the growth of liberal education, new industry, and an emerging economy. We seek your participation in what promises to be an interesting ride.

– Naresh Khanna

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