It’s been just over a year since a terrible global pandemic arrived in South Africa. Minister of Health Zweli Mkhize announced the first official case of Covid-19 in the country on 5 March last year. President Cyril Ramaphosa swiftly declared a state of national disaster, and imposed a 21-day initial lockdown that started on 26 March.
By then, 402 Covid-19 cases had been reported and the lockdown was an attempt to “flatten the curve” – that is, slow the spread of infection. South Africans had never experienced such a lockdown and did not know what to expect. It was a difficult adjustment made worse by the heavy police and military presence on the streets, especially townships and shack settlements. Within the first three weeks of the lockdown, the police and soldiers had killed 10 people, all of whom came from working-class backgrounds.
Now, in late March 2021, more than 52 000 South Africans have died from the coronavirus, thousands have lost their livelihoods and we’re settling into a new kind of grim and austere reality. In the year that South Africa slowly came to terms with a new way of life determined by Covid-19, New Frame photographers were there to witness it.