Photo: Bug and I on out long trek to Knysna on the 1st July 2020
On the 1st of March 2020 the then 38-year old man who had travelled to Italy with his wife, arrived back in South Africa. He became the 1st known man who tested positive for COVID-19 in South Africa, the coronavirus that we (OK I mean me) all thought would fizzle out by June the same year, but ended up causing worldwide havoc for nearly two years.
The COVID-19 pandemic, caused by the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, is so far responsible for more than 5,8 million deaths (officially, who knows what the real numbers are) and billions of dollars in economic losses worldwide. The coronavirus family also includes the related MERS and SARS viruses, both of which have caused significant deadly outbreaks in the past 20 years 1
I remember the start of the pandemic like it was yesterday. I had clients travelling and although they all seemed quite unperturbed, I heard the buzz about borders closing and although there are worse places than South Africa to be stuck, in case of an outbreak I really wanted them to be home. I was immensely relieved when they finally boarded their planes home, not knowing that the real ordeals hadn’t even started yet.
I don’t think there is a single person on planet Earth that wasn’t affected by the pandemic. Many have lost loved ones and friends, others (also) lost their livelihoods, savings, homes and businesses. On the flip side of the coin, there are also people who have experienced positive changes, such as the joy of being able to spend more time with their families and friends, or not having the constant pressure of travel through their jobs, and some found ways to monetise COVID-related opportunities.
But what about the emotional losses, or gains? I’m thinking about the emotional pain and suffering that people experienced through losing loved ones or livelihoods. And the fear and anxiety they felt when people – citizens and governments alike – panicked and turned on each other. The elderly who were kept from their families for months on end, when all they live for are their weekly visits. I personally know two people who committed suicide because they saw no way out of their financial situations, and one friend recently told me he lost his teenage stepdaughter to depression around COVID. It is especially heartbreaking when you think about the fact that we could have been much better prepared – the scientific world has been predicting (not if, but when) pandemics for decades.
I personally have lost all my savings, and it’ll take me years to recover financially. But that is mainly materialistic fluff to me. First and foremost, I am grateful that all my loved ones survived. Secondly, I am grateful that I made some good decisions, such as moving out of the city to the Garden Route, and to prioritise my health. I was very lucky when a small business that started out as a hobby in 2020 started to grow as a result of the pandemic, and has been covering most bills since June 2021.
But tell me about you. What did you experience over the last two years? What has COVID changed for you, physically and mentally? And in spite of everything, were there also things to be grateful for?