Fear and limited handwashing in Gauteng informal settlements

23 March 2020 - 14:12 By Phathu Luvhengo

The country’s economic hub, Johannesburg, could be a catalyst for the spread of the novel coronavirus. As South Africa prepares for a potential spike in locally transmitted Covid-19 cases, we take a closer look at the most vulnerable areas in Johannesburg.

How do you heed President Cyril Ramaphosa's plea to wash your hands often when you live in a community without running water? The short answer is that you don't.

“We share toilets and communal taps here and people aren’t educated about this virus,” said Samuel Makhubela, a community leader at Kya Sands informal settlement near Randburg.

He said he tries to inform people about what they should do to stop the spread of the virus, but it is not easy.

“You find about 60 people a day using the same toilets and collecting water at the same tap. We don’t have any sanitisers or masks. The only thing we can do is to wash our hands,” he said.

About 5km away, Msawawa informal settlement resident Sugar Baloyi, 47, said government should have provided sanitisers, gloves and masks.

“We try to wash hands and encourage our children to wash their hands, but we can only be hopeful that the virus doesn’t spread to our area. Do you think we can avoid it here?” the unemployed father of three asked.

Baloyi said self-isolating would be very difficult.

“I live with my children and wife. How will I self-isolate in this place?”

Justice Baloyi, 32, said he was scared: “If coronavirus gets here, we are all going to die. There isn’t anything we can do about it.”