WHAT ARE MY RESPONSIBILITIES AS A NON-PERMANENT RESIDENT IN KENTON?
We have just entered Day 1 of 21 days of lockdown, a necessary intervention if South Africa is to successfully slow the spread of COVID-19 infections. This is needed so that we can support our public healthcare systems to prepare for the impacts of COVID-19. I work on migration and health and have a background in public health and I’m very aware of the importance of the South African lockdown and associated regulations. I’m not a permanent resident of Kenton but I decided to leave my rented flat in Johannesburg and travel to my home here for the lockdown. Why? I know that this isn’t a holiday. I am quarantining myself and staying home on my property. This isn’t about being self-righteous. Rather, it’s about acknowledging that I have the privilege of coming down to Kenton and that I need to own that privilege and do the right thing.
I want to reassure the Kenton community that I’m doing what I think is the right thing, bearing in mind that Kenton and surrounds are home to high-risk populations. Not only do we know that Kenton itself has an older population than many other places in South Africa, the area is also home to others who are also at increased risk of the impacts of COVID-19. For example, many of our neighbours in Ekuphumleni and Marcelle do not have the option of being able to physically distance and are unable to afford to buy groceries in advance for a 3 week period and will have to shop more frequently during the lockdown. Others will lose their jobs as a result of the lockdown.
I’m aware that there are many seasonal home owners who are doing all the right things. Some will have stayed in their main residence and some will have travelled to Kenton. But the key concern is that the lockdown regulations don’t mention anything about domestic travel and the resultant need for quarantine. As a result, it means that those of us who aren’t permanently resident in Kenton can – if we don’t do the right thing – unknowingly pose a risk to others.
SO WHY DID I COME?
I’m up and down between Kenton and JHB throughout the year (this is more than a seasonal holiday home, it’s my only home) and made the decision to come here for the lockdown after a lot of deliberation. I consulted with experts, and I weighed up my decision carefully. I’ve not travelled outside of South Africa this year. I’m one person, not a household. I rent a flat in Johannesburg and have made this available to frontline healthcare workers who will be exposed to the virus every day through their work and, as a result, need to live away from their own home to protect their families. We know from other contexts that this is huge and unmet need; the spread of infection between healthcare workers and between members of their households is a real concern. I self-isolated for a week in JHB before traveling down to Kenton and have brought with me, from JHB, sufficient groceries for a minimum of 14 days so I can quarantine myself for 14 days. Hopefully I have sufficient for the full 21 days so not to take resources away from permanent residents.
The government regulations do not say anything about needing to quarantine yourself if moving within the country. But this is an essential public health intervention that is beyond the gazetted regulations. If we have travelled from another part of the country, we must quarantine for 14 days to ensure that, should we be infected, we do not spread the virus locally. On average, most people will show symptoms around 5 days after being infected. But this can take as long as 10 days. Hence the need for a 14 day quarantine. If one member of the household becomes sick, all members of the household must quarantine themselves. This means not popping to the garage or to the pharmacy or the bakery or the Spar. If I absolutely must, I will make use of the ‘order and collect’ service that the Spar is operating so that I do not need to come into contact with anyone.
WHAT ELSE CAN WE DO?
If you can, make your main residence from wherever you have travelled available to frontline healthcare providers or others who need to isolate, such as those who live with individuals with underlying diseases, or to someone who otherwise lives in a crowded home or community. We must continue to pay everyone we employ who help clean our homes or look after our gardens both here in Kenton and in our places of main residence.
This is an unprecedented time and we are all finding our way through the unknown. Many of us are in the fortunate position to make informed and careful choices in relation to helping to slow the spread of COVID-19. But we must remember that many in South Africa are not as fortunate and it’s our collective responsibility to do as much as can to protect everyone.
Jo Vearey, PhD
Associate Professor & Director, African Centre for Migration & Society, University of the Witwatersrand
Director, African Research Universities Alliance (ARUA) Centre of Excellence on Migration & Mobility