Adjusting to the ‘new normal’

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Nomaqhawe Mtebele

As essential workers, journalists have been in the frontline since the start of the national lockdown more than two months ago, reporting about the highs and lows brought on by the Coronavirus. However, we seldom, if ever, hear how they have been aff ected by die lockdown. In this second article in the series, Bloemfontein Courant journalist, NOMAQHAWE MTEBELE, tells in her own words how she has been coping during the lockdown.

Covid-19 has changed our lives in different ways. As someone who has been reporting on the pandemic since it began in the Free State, it had, like many other people, impacted my life almost immediately, turning life, as I knew it, upside down.

Although the lockdown was something that many of us had anticipated, seeing that Covid-19 had started spreading in March, I didn’t know that it would change something as long-established as a funeral. One of my brothers had passed away a few days before the announcement of the lockdown.

My family had to grapple with the mourning of his death while at the same time quickly having to arrange a funeral, without a memorial, as we knew by then that a severe lockdown was coming on 26 March 2020. Details of how gatherings would be regulated, however, were not yet clear.

The funeral took place in the middle of the week, even though this was against the cultural norm. Many of my relatives who live outside of the province were left out of the burial. An uncle from Gauteng joked that he had to make it over the provincial border before the clock struck midnight, marking the first day of lockdown, or he would be in trouble.

Only permitted travellers could move around both locally and around the country after then. Despite how different the occasion was, including the limited number of people who could attend the funeral, we were able to lay my brother to rest.

The rules on social distancing made it intimate in a different way. We weren’t able to embrace each other with the hugging and kisses that come with a tragedy like this but because it was “just us”, it was meaningful in a deeper way.

I applaud the government’s efforts to flatten the curve. Although the severeness of the lockdown has changed many things in our lives, it has helped to save many others.

Nomaqhawe Mtebele

nomaqhawe@mahareng.co.za