A year of COVID-19: SA’s 365-day trip around the sun revisited

On 5 March 2020 – exactly one year ago – a period that would come to change nearly every aspect of what the South African public had considered a normal way of being began in earnest when the first case of COVID-19 in the country was confirmed. A KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) man, who was returning from a holiday in Italy, earned the unfortunate  title of SA’s “Coronavirus Patient Zero”, and what followed would lead to civil upheaval the likes of which had never been seen before. 

It’s by no means an anniversary anyone will celebrate with any semblance of joy, but rather one that serves as a painful reminder of the extraordinary sacrifices and measurable loss the citizens of the country made and suffered while government scrambled to stem the spread of the virus by implementing stringent lockdowns that brought a life we once knew to a grinding halt.  

Here’s a look at how the year progressed under COVID-19:

March  

  • 5 March 2020: The very first 1st COVID-19 case reported in South Africa is announced. A 38-year-old KZN man contracts the virus while holidaying in Italy and tests positive. 
  • 15 March 2020: President Cyril Ramaphosa confirms that South Africa is under a National State of Disaster as cases begin to spread exponentially.
  • 26 March 2020: With cases surpassing the 1 000 mark, a three-week lockdown begins. The first death resulting from COVID-19 related illnesses are announced a day later

A defiant Ramaphosa declared on the eve of our descent into a national lockdown that the country would “wage war against the invisible enemy, coronavirus,”  and vowed to ensure that after 21-days, the country would “bounce back so that people can have their lives back”. 

April 

  • 10 April 2020: Face masks – which are a ubiquitous feature of daily life in March 2021 – are formally recommended as a preventative measure to curb the spread of the virus. 
  • 21 April 2020: Ramaphosa announces R500 billion economic and social relief package as the impact of lockdown on the economy and households get increasingly dire. 
  • 30 April 2020: SA reports a grim milestone when deaths resulting from the virus reach the 100 mark. 

May

  • 1 May: SA moves from the most stringent Level 5 lockdown restrictions to Level 4.
  • 11 May: SA’s efforts to distribute a R360 COVID-19 relief grant gets underway. 

June 

  • 1 June: Ramaphosa announces that SA will move to Level 3 lockdown restrictions. Alcohol is permitted for sale once again, although the continued ban on the sale of cigarettes continues to boggle the public.
  • 12 July: The COVID-19 “surge”  is announced as cases spike. The peak of the first wave approaches. 
  • Schools are slowly reopened and begin welcoming students back to the classroom. 

July 

  • 9 July: South Africa records the highest number of confirmed infections in one day: 13 674
  • 12 July: Alcohol sales are once again prohibited as cases continue to mount, with a curfew from 21:00-4:00 introduced. 
  • 19 July: Schools are temporarily closed for the second time. 

August

  • 15 August: Ramaphosa announces the passing of the first wave’s peak, and move the country to Level 2 lockdown. The sale of alcohol is resumed and interprovincial travel is permitted again. 

September

  • 16 September: Ramaphosa announces that the lockdown restrictions will be further eased and SA moves to Level 1. 

October 

  • 18 October: Health Minister Zweli Mkhize tests positive for COVID-19. 

November 

  • 11 November: International travel restrictions and those limiting the hours of trade for shops are relaxed, with the R350 UIF grant extended. 

December 

  • 14 December: Local hotspots identified and moved back to more stringent restrictions as cases continue to rise once again as the festive season approaches. 
  • 18 December: New variant discovered in South Africa causes global concern. 
  • 27 December: COVID-19 cases reported in SA reach the one million mark. 
  • 28 December: Ramaphosa announces that lockdown level 3 will once again come into effect, along with stringent curfew hours. 

January 2021

  • 7 January: Mkhize announces imminent arrival of 1.5 million COVID-19 vaccines developed by AstraZeneca.
  • 11 January: Ramaphosa announces adjustments to SA’s level 3 lockdown regulations, allowing for shorter curfews. 

February 2021

  • 1 February: SA’s first batch of vaccines arrive in the country from India. 
  • 17 February: SA vaccinates first healthcare worker 

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Presh JM Reporter

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