S’nothile Gumede. (PHOTO: Supplied).
“One minute the world is your oyster, five minutes later, the world sets itself on fire.”
leaving South Africa on an exchange programme to the University of Leipzig for
her master’s degree in visual arts, nothing could prepare S’nothile
Gumede for what would hit the world, while so far from home.
shares her story of being stuck in Germany amid the coronavirus outbreak and
her time in state quarantine in South Africa, upon her return.
left South Africa on 28 September 2019 after receiving an Erasmus Mundus
scholarship to participate in the bilateral programme between Stellenbosch
University and the University of Leipzig.
was a five-month academic project aimed at bolstering a relationship between
the two institutions, with an additional month I’d set aside for travelling
which makes a total of six months.
read and learned about the spread of the coronavirus on various social media
South African citizens taking parody pictures, changing their social media
usernames or handles to things such as “QauranQueen” to mock the killer virus,
panic buying, the decline in sales of the popular Corona cider etc, it all felt
like mass hysteria to me, a state of mind.
effects started feeling more tangible with the increasing number of reported
cases and deaths.
the other hand, the idea of being oceans apart from home at a time when the
world has decided to set itself on fire was rather terrifying and overwhelming,
but I found solace in friendship.
the 28th of March, my flight was cancelled due to the South African enforcement
of the national lockdown.
people were in a similar position and as a result the South African government
decided to prioritise bringing everyone home. The goal of evacuating people was
achieved in partnership with South African Airways (SAA) and their friendly volunteer
were evacuated on grounds that we agree to take all the necessary medical exams
and furthermore be state quarantined.
our arrival on 8 April 2020, we were taken to one of the state quarantine sites
in Pretoria, under the supervision of the department of health, where tests were
tests included temperature readings, saliva swabs, and mucus samples.
space in which we were quarantined was hygienic, government employees who were
volunteering were so kind and took great care of us and the meals were amazing,
but to some degree it felt like a hospital.
don’t think I ethically have license to disclose the demographics or statistics
about the results, but I personally tested negative.
South African citizen, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the South African
government’s contingency plans for the coronavirus effects – the effort they’ve
put in to ensure medical attention is given to victims of the virus, that everyone
else who’s at the risk of contracting the virus is protecting themselves as
well as others by merely staying at home – given the government’s history of
being unable to deliver.
plans serve as proof that we should pressure the government for necessary
changes to occur in South Africa, provided they’re capable but indifferent.
everyone who wakes up every day and puts their life on the line for us, thank
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