Looking back at lockdown

Fish Hoek Station Commander Lieutenant Colonel Jackie Johnson.

Saturday March 27 marked one year since the start of the national lockdown in South Africa.

When President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that South Africans would have to stay home from midnight Thursday March 26 2020 until midnight Thursday April 16 2020, there were just over 340 000 confirmed cases across the world and 402 cases in South Africa which had increased six-fold from 61 cases since he declared the coronavirus pandemic a national disaster on Sunday March 15.

The lockdown regulations restricted international travel, prohibited gatherings, closed schools, restaurants, bars and restricted the sale of alcohol and tobacco among others.

Health workers and security personnel such as police, traffic officers, military medical personnel soldiers and the media were exempt from restrictions as were 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 the provision of medical and hygiene products.

Since the initial infection, 52 987 South African have died from Covid-19 and there are currently 1551 964 positive cases. YOLANDE DU PREEZ speaks to far south crime fighters to find out how they experienced lockdown and what they will remember most when looking back.

Fish Hoek Station Commander Lieutenant Colonel Jackie Johnson: “What was most prominent to me during lockdown was that there was more than 50% decrease in crime in Fish Hoek. It’s the first time that our country has had a ban on alcohol and it was an eye-opener, not just for me, but for the country to see the real effects that the abuse of alcohol has on people’s behaviour which in turn affects crime. There was a drastic decrease in violent crimes. We monitored contact crimes during the ban and when the ban was lifted there was a big increase. I will never forget how many people lost their lives due to the virus. It was people I knew and it was a very traumatic experience for me and my family.”

Meanwhile, Muizenberg Community Police Forum board member, Wayne Turner said: “For me, lockdown had both positive and negative aspects. Losing income was definitely a downer for me but during the lockdown I realised that I had time to reflect, to look back and ahead to see what we will be doing in the future and what we could learn from the past and the current situation. For me it was positive experience because I could reflect where I was in life as I spent a lot of hours volunteering with Law Enforcement and was out during most of hard lockdown and did not feel constrained or contained like so many others did.”

Fish Hoek Community Police Forum chairman, Jonathan Mills: “What stood out the most for me during lockdown was how people came together in amazing ways when times were hardest. I learnt what a big difference it can make when people do small things but it also became clear how quickly fatigue sets in and how quickly we can see the long term effects from a lost year. We cannot change where we are or the situation that we are in but we can choose to rise up as active citizens and care for our community and neighbours.”

Simon’s Town Community Police Forum chairperson, Eileen Heywood: “We’re living in interesting times. I caught the last flight to the US out of South Africa in March last year to visit my daughter. I left a shoulder to shoulder airport in Cape Town to absolute desolation at the New York airport. It was like a moonscape and very eerie. I had to quarantine for two weeks and could only watch my daughter through a window. It was a very strange and unusual situation. I spent six months there and for me the most remarkable thing was the ability to stay in touch with the community back in Simon’s Town without physically being there. We had regular CPF meetings, regular project management meetings and we kept marching on despite that we were not together. The Zoom phenomena was the most remarkable thing for me. I did have to get up in the middle of the night to attend meetings, but it didn’t matter because I was able to be with my family and still run things at home.”