Six feet apart or six feet under

With no space to separate, township residents fear they will only find quarantine in the grave

Everson Luhanga

Part 1 of 4

Five months into the pandemic, most South Africans know that quarantine is a luxury for the few. 

There are only five government quarantine sites in Gauteng.

•          Nasrec in Soweto

•          Transnet in Kempton Park 

•          Eskom in Midrand

•          Telkom in Midrand

•          Abe Bailey in the West Rand

But there are no quarantine sites in congested townships, and so for many it’s self-quarantine.

This means a time-ticking bomb for many people – especially those staying in congested townships like Alexandra, Diepsloot, Honeydew, Durban Deep, and other squatter camps in Johannesburg and across the country.

One of Alexandra’s leaders and activists, Adolf Marema, said life has changed in the township. 

Although there are those who still think the pandemic is a joke, many have seen friends and relatives dying from the virus. 

“It was a deadly decision by the government to lift the regulations from level five to level three and lift the [initial] ban on selling alcohol.

“If the government doesn’t consider putting Covid-19 patients from townships in quarantine sites, graves will be their final quarantine place,” said Marema.

Scrolla.Africa traced and spoke to patients in Diepsloot, Alexandra, and Johannesburg inner city who tested positive, and were told by department of health officials to go home.

However, these people lack the resources needed to keep them in their houses. They end up interacting with everyone in society as if everything is normal.

Once they get home, these patients share communal facilities like toilets, water taps, and utensils like washing buckets.

The Gauteng department of health admits there are no quarantine sites in congested townships. Asked why some people are sent to self-quarantine instead of the existing sites, spokesperson Kwala Kekana said “there is a department that deals with identifying who qualifies to be taken to these sites.” 

Professor Morgan Chetty, Visiting Professor of Health Sciences at the Durban University of Technology, said “most people live in crowded dwellings with often more than four people in one room. This is impossible to expect a person to be in quarantine in these circumstances”.