Getting placed in quarantine has become a reality for many South Africans as a way to prevent the spread of Covid-19. Life, however, is far from normal for everyone being welcomed back home after the isolation process and the first moments of happiness and relief have passed.
The “old normal” is now being replaced by the “new normal”. Helen-Joan Lombard is a repatriated Bloemfontein native who was quarantined in Johannesburg after returning from Ghana in April. After the two-week isolation period and a negative Covid-19 test, she was finally able to see her loved ones after months away from them.
“I was relieved and grateful to be tested negative and so excited to go back home to my family. My 3-year-old niece was so glad that I was back, we had to make a Christmas bed in front of the TV and had to watch Frozen 2 that same night. There really is no place like home,” she said. After experiencing the processes involved in the fight against Covid-19 firsthand, Lombard expressed that the biggest lesson from the experience has been the importance of family.
“When I was in Ghana, I got very sad and upset that I could not be with my family during this time. When there is a world crisis going on you want to be with family instead of being in a foreign country,” she explained.
“I have learned that life is can change very suddenly and you must cherish every moment you have. People react to uncertainty very differently and there is a lot of people in shock, it’s as if we are going through a war.” Her father, Gerhard Lombard, was the first of her loved ones to see her when she was discharged. After driving to Gauteng to fetch her from a quarantine facility, he expressed the relief of having her back.
“As soon as we got the call to fetch her, I jumped into my car and drove all the way to Jo’burg. Her arrival home at Oude Kraal farm was like the Bible story of the lost son. It felt great to have her under our wings again. It was such a precious moment.”
Now, Helen-Joan is grateful to be surrounded by family and friends. Her days are filled with communal meals and work on the self-sufficient farm that houses over 60 people just outside of Bloemfontein. “We are incredibly lucky and so fortunate here,” she said.