Covid 19: Strategies in South Africa compared to the UK

South AfricaUnited Kingdom
Lock Down Schools – 18th March
Complete Lockdown – 26th MarchComplete Lockdown – 23rd March
Population: 57.78 million (2018)Population UK 65 million (2019)
996 Deaths (June 7th)40,619 Deaths (June 7th)

In both countries there has been controversy over the timing of lock down and easing of lock down and the reopening of schools. In both countries the financial cost has been colossal and will have long reaching effects on the economy and particularly badly hit will be those losing their jobs and the poorest in the community.

What is striking is the thoroughness of testing regime and the early use of full PPE. What is not written into the statistics is absolute fear of the pandemic in the South African population and the reason for the preparedness. The South Africans have had over thirty years of learning and refining clinical practice during the HIV/Aids pandemic. The vulnerability of those who are infected with the disease is also a major cause of concern.

Whatever our government have been doing, running in circles trying to get the PPE supplies right they, and other European governments could have been more alert as to how countries who have suffered pandemics have mastered the basics. True, the numbers of cases in South Africa has escalated since the easing of Lock Down but isn’t this what we will see here?

The controversy over children’s immunity and their part in transmitting the virus once the schools have opened is the continuing in both countries. Only after more scientific research, more infections and more deaths can we truly answer those questions.

The report below from rural KwaZulu-Natal has been written by Zimbili Dlamini the Co-ordinator of the Family Literacy Project based in Underberg. She works with the pre-school teachers on our behalf and lives in the rural area not far from Centocow.

Testing for Covid in a rural area of KZN

The Covid 19 pandemic in South Africa

It was the beginning of March when we started to hear from the media that there is this pandemic in Asia specifically in China. So, in the middle of March our president Cyril Ramaphosa declared the National state of disaster. Where he announced on the 16th of March that the country will go to lockdown for 21 days, which was going to start of 26th and the basic education school was going to be closed with immediate effect on the 18th of March. The rules of the lockdown were also put in place and it was mentioned that everything must be closed except essentials services (hospitals, supermarket, police stations, public transport (taxis and buses with the specific number of passengers) water and sanitation). Alcohol and tobacco were not allowed even in food supermarkets. People were only allowed to be out only when carrying permit to move out otherwise all had to stay at home.

When the country went to lockdown , there were only seven people in the country that were diagnosed positive with the Covid  19 and the first person was from our province, KwaZulu-Natal, it was so scary as it was so close to us because it was in Hilton, Pietermaritzburg. It was in two weeks time when president extended the lockdown with another three weeks which was going to be to the end of April. So, by end of April he introduced lockdown levels, so we were in Level five in April moving down to level one but only if we respect the lockdown rules and if we manage the spread of the virus. In May we were in level four which was better as even some hardware, newborn clothing shops and spares were opened. Our president emphasized that gathering with more than 50 people were not allowed, even in the funerals, no obituary and the funeral only took two hours only. To wear masks and hand washing became compulsory. Any kind of sports remained prohibited, all borders were closed since level 5 of the lockdown except when people had to go back to their countries and to come back to South Africa. Two hundred people who were in China in March they were fetched by the SA defence force and they were quarantined for 14 days in the isolation hotel but it was good to find that no one was infected amongst them.

Why lockdown in SA?

That decision was taken for important step towards the various ways of dealing with the virus, it was to help the country to get ready for treatment, to learn from other countries, hospitals to have more beds and also to delay spread of the virus.

Mobile testing unit


All basic education was closed on 18th March and higher was closed during the lockdown date until June 1st, which we were hoping to resume during level 3 of the lockdown. During the last two weeks of the level 4 was the time of proving the schools with water and sanitation and sanitizing, that was going with the proposal opening of the two grades, which is grade 7 and grade 12 only. Higher education and private schools are learning online. Even exams will be done online, which is not very easy for people who are living in deep rural areas and poor people not working, as internet connection and data is a problem. During level 5 there were some learning programmes on radio, but it was disappointing to find out that it didn’t continue during level 4. Minister of education was not clear about what was going to happen in level 4 or in other level.

Full PPE ready for workers in the rural areas

Hospitals – medication

All hospitals and clinic are now ready in our country, they all had isolation ward, this is available for those who cannot be isolated or quarantine at home. All hospitals clinic and mobile clinic are doing screening and refer for testing. In KwaZulu Natal there was only hospital which chosen to take care of infected patients, but all are doing this. Minister of health is doing very well in maintaining the situation which is very appreciated with the hope that they will fight until the end. Public hospitals look as if are doing far better than private hospitals because there are very few incidents where health worker get infected. In KwaZulu Natal our province were 3 hospitals who were reported the high rate of infected outpatients, doctors and nurses. Those cases led to those hospitals to be closed while the department is investigating the cause. Also, by end May it was also reported in Eastern Cape which was another shock. There is currently no cure of this pandemic but its controllable and with more recoveries but using the flu medication. There is also traditional medication that traditional healers like to use but it is not yet approved. In other places screening is happening within the community, in some shops and in some department if you visited there and it is compulsory.


This is the worse part as South Africa had three spheres of living; poor, better and rich. Different departments are providing food parcels to poor people especially those who are not working and not receiving any social grants. Social grants that we have in South Africa are child support grant, disability grant, old age grant, unemployment fund (UIF) and national student financial aid scheme (NSFAS). So, if you are not receiving any of the above you can receive food parcel from mostly department of social development and others like business people. Our government also launch the R350 per month* if you unemployed, but no one had received as it is a new grant. Social grant had also had increase which will last for 6 months from May. What also affect our economy is the banning of selling tobacco and alcohol. Restaurant are also closed, that means that the income in the economy had suddenly stopped. Since then food prices have risen which make it more difficult for the poor and for those who are purchasing for food parcel. Even street vendors were not allowed during level 5. Tourism department was also closed since level 5.


In our country prisons are very full that make it not easy to practice social distancing so currently our government had proposed to release 19,000 prisoners with a parole, but other people are very concern about this, and it is still on debate.

Stats nation-wide

It is a very hopeful sign that the first people who were diagnosed with this virus are now healthy and back to normal. But during level 4 the spread of the virus was growing and high even the number of new infections its still growing up though they said the curve is stable. KZN is in fourth place in the provinces with the high number. According to KZN Province eThekwini, uMgungundlovu and uMkhanyakude are the regions with the high number, for us in Harry Gwala (region) we are fine; nothing had reported so far.

Latest Stats at time of posting

Situation in Centocow and in FLP

We are most affected people in the area, as department of education is not supporting creche in South Africa, all our creche teachers have nowhere to get support, worse for those who are not registered. In FLP we are also affected as we are working with the literacy in adults and in children, we are totally stuck even with the funding. 

Zimbili Dlamini

In the area around Centocow we have been working for several years to get all the pre-schools registered. There are now 60 pre-schools in the area and it is nationally recognised by all the ECD Associations NPO’s and relevant officials that the procedure for registering is cumbersome, bureaucratic and even when the process is set in motion delays by the Department of Social Welfare can be disheartening.

In April, The Plight of the ECD Workforce; an urgent call for relief in the wake of Covid 19 was written on behalf of the following organisations:

Ilifa Labantwana
National ECD Alliance (NECDA) [103 member organisations]
Nelson Mandela Foundation
Smartstart [4 000 member operators]
South African Congress for Early Childhood Development (SACECD) [21 000 ECD Centres]

What can we do to help

Some basic supplies have been delivered to these women

One of the most striking things about the pre-schools of the Centocow area is that so many of them have not been able to complete the registration process. This means that they have no state funding or support. They do not have even the regular provision of free meals for the children that schools and registered ECD provision has. Neither do the teachers receive any payment for their work. They only received the small amount of money that the local families could afford to pay. This has stopped during lockdown as all forms of paid casual work has ceased. Recent changes to the lockdown rules still does not allow pre-schools and creches to re-open.

We have calculated (using recent figures from KZN) that it costs approx £25 to feed a family for a week. This is based on what is their usual spending pattern, not what they would need to have a proper healthy diet, which costs much more.

Will you please help the pre-school teachers and their families

For other ways to donate see here