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The Blues Part 1: A depressed patient’s journey through lockdown
31 March 2020, 2:22 PM

It takes 21 days of healthy eating and working out to form a habit pattern or break the habit. That is according to experts. But what happens to people who are anxious and depressed during the nationwide lockdown.

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the 21-day national lockdown which started on Thursday midnight in an attempt to halt the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).

Ramaphosa says, “The nationwide lockdown is necessary to fundamentally disrupt the chain of transmission across society.”

Experts say social isolation can form feelings of fear, anxiety and depression. They believe that any form of interaction is vital in such circumstances.

Clinical Psychologist from the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG), Samukelisiwe Mthembu says the levels of anxiety are high due to COVID-19. She says interaction creates bonding and comforts people that may share similar issues.

A 21-year-old Lwethu Bugqwangu, based in Western Cape, has been suffering from depression since 2016. She says sometimes she doesn’t see a way out of the 21-day lockdown.

“It’s like everyone is going to die,” she laments. Bugqwangu says she has stocked up enough medication for the duration of the lockdown.

“I take my medication now and then to numb the pain. I suffer from panic attacks and feel anxious. I have a hard time feeling joy. Most of the time, I have to pretend to be happy. I have fears of rejection and not being normal around people.”

Bugqwangu says suicidal thoughts have been on her mind lately. “I once wrote a suicidal note for my mother, dad, little sister, the baby I lost and my ex-boyfriend. I cut my hands now and then.”

In the audio below, Mthembu says being calm and focusing on positive thoughts helps to avoid negative thoughts:

However, Bugqwangu prefers being in a dark room alone during this period.

Psychologist Mthembu has advised people to have telephonic sessions with their psychologist should they not be able to have face-to-face contact.

“Finding some means of communication with your psychologist helps alleviate some anxiety even if you are suffering from depression. Any therapy is better than no therapy, currently.”

Mthembu has reiterated that citizens suffering from depression must continue taking medication.

“People shouldn’t stop taking their medication and that’s why some essential services are still open and it’s important to access your medication during this time, especially because of the isolation that’s involved with staying home or staying alone for 21 days. Health must continue as usual.”

In the audio below, Mthembu unpacks the importance of medication:

Mthembu says 21-day lockdown may come with a lot of isolation. “People who are staying alone during this period should reach out on social media platforms. I have seen a lot of video chats on Instagram, a lot of people reconnecting on Facebook.”

Bugqwangu says the only thing she does to escape the isolation is eating and sleeping. “I try walking around the yard with my dogs and meditating. If it doesn’t work out, I got to sleep.”

Audio: Bugqwangu explains further…

Mthembu unpacks the difference between feeling down and depression:

Here are some of the activities people can do during 21-day lockdown:


Health workers in the public and private sectors, emergency personnel, those in security services (such as the police, traffic officers, military medical personnel, soldiers) and other persons necessary to respond to COVID-19 are exempted from this lockdown.

It will also include those involved in the production, distribution and supply of food and basic goods, essential banking services, the maintenance of power, water and telecommunications services, laboratory services, and those involved in the provision of medical and hygiene products.

SADAG has announced that it will remain open during the nationwide lockdown.

Get in touch with SADAG on 0800 567 567.

Note: This is Part 1 of a series of articles under The Blues 

Water shortages still a crisis in KZN during lockdown
30 March 2020, 12:48 PM

As KwaZulu-Natal is battling the spread of the coronavirus, the emphasis is on people washing their hands with water and soap. Some communities are still without running water. Now government is trying to ensure communities have access to water.

Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs MEC – Sipho Hlomuka says they have started distributing water tanks to various communities battling with water shortages

“We have procured about 3000 Jojo tankers that will be distributed to all municipalities faced with water shortages. We urged the municipalities to ensure they fill the tankers with water so communities are able to regularly wash hands with soap to curb the spread of the coronavirus.”

Harry Gwala District mayor Zamo Nxumalo says a large portion of their area is without running water. Nxumalo also says some communities are not adhering to the lockdown.

“We have about 65 percent water backlog, it will take us a few years to ensure we supply water to all communities. The other challenge is some of our people are not adhering to lockdown, some are having functions, you swear they are on a holiday. We have used law enforcement to disperse a number of gatherings,” says Nxumalo.

The number of people who have tested positive for the coronavirus grows daily. Government has urged people to respect the lockdown and stay at home.

Meanwhile, Water and Sanitation Minister Lindiwe Sisulu says government has procured 41 000 water tankers to be distributed to areas with water shortages.

Sisulu says the move seeks to ensure that communities, especially those in rural areas, comply with the sanitation measures required to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

Minister Sisulu has called on anyone with complaints of water shortages to call the toll free number 0800 200 200.

“To ensure water supply to all our people, we have gone ahead with procuring water tankers and we’ve procured 41 000 of them. The greatest number is the one that goes to the Eastern Cape; 2 342; 1 700 for the Free State; 12 130 for Gauteng; 4 274 for KZN (KwaZulu-Natal); 1 200 for Limpopo. We are still working on Mpumalanga to provide them with 600 and North West with 600.”

In the video below, Ministers brief the media on the nationwide lockdown status update. 







Mapisa-Nqakula condemns alleged brutality by SANDF members
30 March 2020, 12:33 PM

Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula has condemned alleged brutality by some South African National Defence Force (SANDF) members who have been deployed to support police to manage the nationwide lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus.

In some cases social media posts are showing SANDF members forcing members of the public to perform physical exercises, in others beating them up and confiscating their groceries.

Mapisa-Nqakula says such conduct can not be condoned, “We do not condone what I have heard just now. I have been on radio the whole morning, I’ve been talking on many radio stations to make a plea to our security services to refrain from using excessive force against our people. They are out in the street to protect South Africans, they are not in the street to abuse South Africans.”

President Cyril Ramaphosa, on the eve of the lockdown, said members of the SANDF need not instil a sense of fear in people, but should provide confidence and hope.

He said, “As it is now, when we start these 21 days, many of our people are fearful, they are doubtful, they are concerned about the virus, their livelihoods, the loneliness that this is going to impose on them as we confine them to their homes. They will be looking up to you to give them confidence that everything will be alright.

Ramaphosa told members of the SANDF that this was a life-saving and life restoration mission.

“This is not a moment for skop and donner, this is not a moment for skiet and donner. This is a moment to be supportive to our people. I, therefore, order you to go out and execute this mission with great success. Thank you very much.”

In the video below, President Ramaphosa addresses SANDF members:



SASSA cards
Social grant payments commence across the country
30 March 2020, 10:02 AM

Social grant recipients in Alexandra, north of Johannesburg, have expressed mixed feelings over the precautions that government put in place at pay-points in the township.

The South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) has decided to pay social grants to the elderly and persons with disabilities earlier than normal this month, due to the nationwide lockdown.

Other beneficiaries will be able to access their grants from 1 April. There are long queues in many townships as the elderly and the disabled flock to pay points.

In the video below, Minister Panyaza Lesufi emphasises social distancing

Meanwhile, thousands of elderly people and people living with disabilities have travelled by bus and taxi from the rural areas around Mthatha in the Eastern Cape from as early as one o’clock on Monday morning to collect their social grants.

Long queues have formed at every ATM in the town.  Beneficiaries using ATMs are very happy and are now waiting for the shops to open. However, the beneficiaries that are paid through the Post Office are still waiting in the queue and many of them have fallen asleep.

“I arrived at one, I wanted to be number one, I am happy that I am here , I will grab my cash and go home early,” says one recipient.

In the video below, SASSA beneficiaries queue to get their money

Mali holds election despite coronavirus and insurgency
30 March 2020, 9:25 AM

Mali held its long-delayed parliamentary election on Sunday despite an insurgency in its central and northern regions, concerns about coronavirus and the recent kidnapping of the main opposition leader.

The election, originally scheduled for 2018, has been postponed twice because of intensifying violence in parts of Mali where the government struggles to suppress jihadist groups with links to al Qaeda and Islamic State.

The coronavirus pandemic has posed a further threat to the vote but authorities in the West African nation have insisted it will go ahead, promising to enforce additional hygiene measures to protect Mali’s 7.6 million voters.

“The government will do everything to make sure this is the case,” President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita said in the run-up to the election.

Mali had confirmed 20 cases of coronavirus and its first death from the disease as of Sunday morning.

Polls opened on Sunday at 0800 and turnout in the capital Bamako appeared low, a Reuters witness said.

There was no queue at one polling station, which allowed voters to cast their ballot while keeping the recommended distance from each other. Handwashing facilities were meant to be available, but the kits arrived too late for early voters.

“I voted without a problem, but the hygiene kit against coronavirus wasn’t there,” said 30-year-old driver Ibrahim Konare. “The priority for the new parliament should be the fight against insecurity and the eradication of coronavirus.”

It was not clear how voting was going in the large areas of central and northern Mali that are effectively lawless and used by the jihadists as a base for attacks in Mali and into neighbouring Niger and Burkina Faso.

Mali’s main opposition leader Soumaila Cisse was ambushed last week while on the campaign trail in the northern region of Timbuktu. The attackers killed Cisse’s bodyguard and took Cisse and six members of his delegation hostage. They have not been seen since.

The election will select 147 lawmakers for the national assembly, which has not had a mandate since 2018 because of the electoral delays.

Polling stations close at 1800 GMT with results due in the coming days. A second round is scheduled for April 19 in constituencies where no candidate wins a majority.

Video | There are more than 3000 confirmed cases of coronavirus across the African continent




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