Life in a Time of Corona: Letters from the Ledge – Day 1

Friday – 27 March 2020 – 12:18am

As of now, we’re officially under lockdown as a country. People have been manic over over the last few days, trying to get their lives in order for the 21-day lockdown and panic-buying everything from hardware goods to fresh fruit and veggies (which makes no sense because they’ll spoil quickly, but ok).

However, now, as I write this piece at 12:18am, I’m suddenly aware of how the world has just become still; holding it’s breath in anticipation.

I swear, you can already feel the isolation and tension in the air as we face the uncertainty of the future. The majority of SME businesses have closed their doors and as a result, many people have either lost their jobs or lost half-to-full month’s pay that they couldn’t afford to lose. Some are attempting to apply for UIF or some sort of grant from some sort of Corona Virus relief fund to just get by for the month. The South African economy is coming to a grinding halt before our eyes and we can’t even ask another country to bail us out because their economy is crashing too. If businesses are closed, people are not getting paid and cannot buy from other businesses or pay their debts so there is zero cash flow to keep the economy afloat.

If you’d like some perspective on how far this impact is already reaching, check out this source-approved report on Fin24 that includes an audio recording of Edcon CEO, Grant Pattison, breaking down as he delivers a crisis message to his suppliers and outlines the current and immediate-future state of Edcon as a whole (they own the retail store Edgars amongst other things).

You might want to be proactive and say “ok, then I’ll just start my own business if I can’t find work”, but the reality is that NOBODY can find work locally. You can’t start any sort of locally-dependent ‘side hustle’ or entrepreneurship venture in a frozen economic climate so the jobless will remain as such until the cash starts flowing again. Even those who are able to work from home and are dependent on the local economy won’t have work for long if we stay under lockdown for more than a month – which is a very real possibility if we don’t #FlattenTheCurve and get the spread of the virus under control during this 21-day period. On a slightly brighter note, however, I have heard that the e-learning sector is now booming since everyone and their aunty is on this #StayHome buzz, so an option might be to try to jump onto those sorts of online ventures while other international countries still have an economy that’s alive enough to pay you for your services.

Coming back to the ripple effects of this lockdown, the rate of domestic violence is probably going to increase drastically over this time as addicts can’t get their fix and parents, partners, spouses and/or family members are stuck under the same roof with little-to-no relief from stressful situations that may arise.

The homeless have been shoved into every shelter and haven that we have, including some churches and halls. Somehow, they all need to be fed as well, and since these NGOs rely heavily on donations, they are struggling to find enough food resources. In light of this, I suppose it’s a silver lining that, our airports are all grounded so they’ve been donating all of their food stock…which, from what I’ve heard on the radio, is enough to feed the homeless for about a week. But then you look at the social distancing rules and you realise that, with the homeless being in such close proximity, someone is bound to catch something and spread it around. So that situation is basically a ticking time bomb.

In short: we are royally screwed at this particular point in time… but so is every other country. And I suppose in some twisted way, that makes us feel a bit better and less alone in our screwed-up-ed-ness.

I believe that the socio-economic repercussions of this pandemic will be so much worse and far-reaching than the global recession of 2008 and let me be clear: we, as a country, are not prepared.

Most of us never thought we’d experience a situation like this in our lifetime. But we’re all in this together now so grab your guitar, get your peeps on a conference call or group video sesh for a virtual Kumbaya moment and take each day as it comes.

Most importantly, think realistically, but try to remain hopeful with an out-of-the-box, solutions-based mindset – there are already enough people falling into depression and losing their minds, and we don’t need more jumping on that bandwagon.

Be safe. Stay strong. Stay home.

Kris
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