Up through this past weekend, my life in South Africa was mostly unaffected by COVID-19. But now, life here is shifting dramatically. We only just broke 100 confirmed cases yesterday, but as early as Sunday evening the government was taking strong action to slow/prevent the spread of the virus. Schools are now closed, and the Anglican Diocese of Johannesburg has suspended in-person worship services through Easter. Travel from “high risk” countries like China, UK, South Korea, Spain, Germany and the United States is restricted. As difficult as all these closings can be, I’m really glad that South Africa is trying to strike quickly to contain the virus.
The effects on the community are easy to see. At the supermarket, toilet paper, pasta and bread are flying off of the shelves. St. Thomas church is noticeably quieter. The St. Thomas soup kitchen that I help with is having to change which foods it can serve and how it serves the food to limit contact. No matter where you go, it’s understandably the first topic of conversation.
Along with the suspended worship services, Father Clayton and I decided to suspend youth meetings. This means I’ll have a lot of unscheduled time in the coming weeks. I’m planning to put this time to good use– prepping so that the youth program can hit the ground in a few weeks/months. It’s not an easy decision, or one that I’ll enjoy having to enact, but I know it’s the right one for now.
Finally, as is probably clear from the rest of my post, I’m not going home. Many other people on similar trips abroad have been sent home by their program, and I’m really glad that I was given the option to stay here. I truly believe that I am safe here, and I honestly think that I may have a better chance of staying healthy by staying in South Africa. But more than anything, I’m glad that I’m able to keep doing my work here, even in a planning capacity, and I’m glad that I’ll be ready to get going again with the youth program whenever it’s possible to do so.
I hope that wherever you might be, you’re doing well and rallying against whatever challenges are laid at your feet.