It goes without saying that lockdown is going to have a devastating impact on an individual’s health and on the economy. Jobs will be lost and many businesses will not be able to re-open their doors. It is abundantly clear that nothing will ever be the same again. The glaring reality is that once the lockdown has been lifted business and sales will not return to their previous state of existence. When you glance at online conversations, especially in regard to the extension of the lockdown, people’s primary concern is, “how they are going to make ends meet”?
Whilst President Ramaphosa must certainly be commended for his quick action when he placed South Africa under lockdown, the negative repercussions, in relation to the psychological welfare of the nation, may have been overlooked. Mental health is just as important as physical health. It is a medical fact that stress weakens the immune system. When under stress your immune system shuts down. Trapped in confined spaces, with not much to do can have an equally detrimental impact on both one’s body and one’s mind. This is especially relevant for those who are in the lower income bracket who do not have access to unlimited wi-fi or activities to keep their minds busy. They are more likely to start stressing about how they are going to pay their bills and put food on the table both during and after this pandemic has played out. In 19 days of lockdown the desperation is beginning to rear its ugly head with looting of liquor stores and a local shop in the Athlone community.
Initially, the lockdown was meant to be implemented for 21 days. Based on this, the SA Reserve Bank projected about 370 000 job losses, and more than 1 600 businesses to close
When people were panic buying, government and media pleaded them not to. Assurances that shops would be well stocked facilitating the purchase of essential goods. Yet, while visiting supermarkets many sections can be seen to be cordoned off. Access to areas such as: gardening, maintenance, toys, etc. have been denied. This begs the question why these goods are not being seen as essential, especially as these stores have are already been supplying these goods?
The question is why such stringent measures were taken when there are opportunities to mitigate job losses and alleviate stress which leads both to poor morale and weakened immune systems? One has to wonder how much thought was given to the individual and their overall well being. Perhaps people looting bottle stores are doing so because people are trying to cope and run away from the stress associated with the country’s current situation.
People who have been deemed as non-essential has a lot of time on their hands and with nothing to do could raise problems such as the rise of abuse against women and the looting of liquor stores. In 2018 1 in 4 people in South Africa were suffering from anxiety and depression for a number of reasons, one being stress. Whilst the lockdown is a blessing in that people now have the time to rest and recover, how do they keep their minds occupied?
Allowing people to be able to do activities like home improvements, gardening, painting, fixing their shacks for winter, gives a person a sense of accomplishment, allowing good feelings which would contribute to a better state of being and building a stronger immune system. Internet in South Africa is one of the most expensive in the world. Many cannot afford data/wi-fi. Many living in rural communities don’t even have the option to have internet because there is no connection. This means they don’t have the opportunity to learn new skills or spend time on the internet to help pass the time. Allowing people to buy things that can keep the mind active/stimulated is an essential, like gardening, art, reading books or playing games.
It was extremely short sited to think that mental health would not be impacted on during and after this lockdown. Why such stringent measures were taken, when there are other options that can reduce job losses especially in the low income earning sector and reduce expenditure in the country’s available resources.
If the argument is “because it would increase movement” one has to consider that supermarkets are already supplying many of these products. Whether someone goes to the shop to pick up bread and milk which is an essential or to purchase an item excluded from the essential list, they are at the store. Why shouldn’t that person be able pick up what may feel like an essential to them that would help them to reduce stress and anxiety. Games for example reduce stress and helps the brain rewire its neural pathways. Gardening, art, maintenance are all known to have therapeutic benefits.
However, there are other even better options to consider which would reduce job losses and it would also help kick start the rebuilding of the economy.
Delivery and Courier Sector
Services like Takealot, Mr Delivery, PostNet, 3@1 Business Centres have the infrastructure already in place to handle online orders and deliveries. Physical contact with any courier or delivery person is not necessary which is in compliance with the social distancing regulations. Allowing people to shop online for what they feel are essential goods to their needs and have their goods delivered to their door would encourage the development of e-commerce and thereby minimise job losses in many sectors as well as creating new opportunities. Suppose someone needs to order a plumbing device because their tap is broken or parents supplement their children’s home-schooling with books and games or even use art, surely this sector should be encouraged to assist
Restaurants and Takeaways
Allowing restaurants and takeaway businesses to stay open and be creative to comply with regulations would help retain jobs. Allowing restaurants to make use of contactless delivery services of take-out and fast food meals. Think about those who are unable to cook for themselves, perhaps they are the elderly or even someone who is unwell?
Share your thoughts and ideas of how one can keep the doors open to retain jobs and minimise job losses during lockdown.