“This morning I got up at, like, half past five. I stood by the door until five to six and when those gates opened, it felt like Freedom Day.”
These were the words of Christoff Swanepoel from Emmarentia in Johannesburg on Friday morning.
He and his dog were finally able to go out for a jog thanks to the easing of restrictions under South Africa’s Level 4 lockdown.
Friday was the first day of Level 4 and in terms of the new regulations, citizens are allowed to leave home to walk, run or cycle from 06:00 to 09:00, for the first time since March 26.
They were cooped up indoors for more than a month under Level 5 measures that were in place to contain the spread of Covid-19.
Emmarentia Dam was a hive of activity on Friday morning, with some residents out on their bikes, others stretching on the road, and some running with family members and pets.
Swanepoel said he owned a small coffee shop in the area which had to close down after the lockdown was implemented last month. Two of his employees lost their jobs as a result.
“We owned a coffee shop called Ophelia. We employed two people, or used to employ. The community has been amazing this time but unfortunately, our business had to close down because of the fact that we just wouldn’t be able to sustain business. Even now [that we are] able to do deliveries, we won’t be able to manage,” Swanepoel told News24.
However, he was happy about being able to be out and said he was worried that the government would change the regulations that allow exercising, just like it did with the tobacco sales ban.
Swanepoel said he would also spend some time in the day buying winter clothes for his two-year-old daughter who outgrew her wardrobe.
There were similar scenes at Zoo Lake, where scores of residents, young and old, were out and about in their gym kits.
Bridget Chivaviro, who left her home in Germiston on the eve of lockdown in March to move in with her sister in the area, said it was difficult to train in their backyard during the Level 5 lockdown.
Chivaviro said she had to learn new ways of exercising but was excited she finally had an opportunity to leave the house and go outside for a jog with her teenage daughter.
“I stopped smoking during the period and have been working out a lot. With the whole period, you give up smoking because it was going to be difficult to find smokes,” Chivaviro said.
Besides giving up smoking, the mom said she would also have to work towards losing weight because there was nothing else to do but eat during the lockdown.
Luthando Ntsangane, who was also in the crowd at the lake, told News24 he was excited to be out.
Conscious about going to stores
But because he is still conscious about big crowds, he said he would not go to any stores until things calmed down.
“I know people will come out in numbers, so I [would] prefer staying at home,” he said.
*This article has been edited to reflect the correct name of the coffee shop mentioned above which was previously referred to as ‘Affia.’