With COVID-19 cases on the increase in the Western Cape, backyard dwellers are concerned that they may not be able to protect themselves against the pandemic. The province now has over 15 000 active cases, with a growing number of high-risk areas.

The lack of ventilation and inability to social distance in confined and poorly built structures is a major concern.

Mary-Ann Daniels has been living in a backyard dwelling for the past 15 years, due to overcrowding in her Kleinvlei maisonette in which her children live. For people like Daniels, who live with five other people in such a confined space, social distancing is simply not possible. She has no access to running water and Daniels fears contracting the virus.

“In the light of COVID-19 I am very concerned because many things are happening, luckily nothing happened to me yet, but I still worry about it, because I can’t even wash my hands since the water is off so how must I manage that.”

The Cape Metro is one of the regions experiencing a resurgence in infections. Authorities are appealing to every citizen to adhere to the safety protocols of mask-wearing, sanitising and social distancing.

The Chief of Operations for the Western Cape Health Department, Dr Saadiq Kariem says avoiding confined spaces is imperative.

“We now know that the virus spreads through small air droplets that as we breathe in these droplets we are in fact breathing in small particles of the virus so thus it’s important that we avoid gatherings as far as possible, avoid crowded places, avoid confined spaces and avoid close contact.”

Quinton Adams, who is known as the shack builder, assists those in need by rebuilding dilapidated dwellings. He says a holistic approach is needed.

“The one thing that is very concerning is the fact that it’s overcrowded in the shack because you will find 7 – 9 people live in one apartment or one room and there’s no movement for them and no good ventilation in the shack.”

Adams, who runs a non profit company, says the biggest challenge is to educate people on how they can improve their living conditions within informal dwellings.

Tackling COVID-19 in informal settlements: