Khwezi Science Report

PODCAST | How a year of lockdown has rewired our brains

It has been a year since the land fell quiet and we have since seen fundamental changes to our psyches

29 March 2021 - 20:32
The empty streets of Hillbrow, Johannesburg, at the beginning of the nationwide lockdown.
The empty streets of Hillbrow, Johannesburg, at the beginning of the nationwide lockdown.
Image: Alaister Russell/Sunday Times

“We are now living in world where grief itself is transmitted globally,” says Wits University historian Prof Hlonipha Mokoena.

That’s a far cry from a year ago, when we as a country were just about to go into lockdown.

At the stroke of midnight between March 26 and 27 last year, our bustling country on the tip of Africa fell quiet as 60 million people retreated into their homes for what was meant to be a three-week lockdown.

Listen to the impact it has had here:

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In a very short space of time, we had gone from hearing about an obscure disease in Wuhan, China, to learning that “patient zero” had been diagnosed in SA. A few days after that, President Cyril Ramaphosa appeared on television to announce the country would come to a grinding halt.

Since then, we have lost — officially — more than 50,000 citizens (though the number is likely to be much higher), and data on transmissions, hospitalisations and vaccinations dominate public discourse.

But according to Mokoena, our society has also seen other fundamental changes that are less easy to calculate: the way we think, perceive our country, and chase the “fix” that will end this not-so-brave new world.

In this podcast, she speaks to Sunday Times Daily reporter Tanya Farber about ways in which the SA and global psyche has changed since a pandemic swept across the globe, bringing with it a fight for vaccines.

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