Centre for Community-based Research

Life during lockdown: Exploring South Africans' experiences during the COVID-19 lockdown

A project of the Centre for Community-based Research in the HSRC's Human and Social Capabilities division.

In South Africa, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases confirmed the first case of COVID-19 on 5 March 2020 (NICD, 2020). On 23 March 2020, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that South Africa would enter a nationwide lockdown for 21-days effective 26 March 2020 to 16 April 2020 (The Presidency, 2020), which was later extended to end of April 2020 (as of 22-04-2020). The South African lockdown formed part of the unprecedented global response in an attempt to curb the rapid spread of the COVID-19 virus. The lockdown was enacted in terms of the Disaster Management Act No. 57 of 2002 (The Presidency, 2003).

Given the extraordinary measures put in place by the government to protect those living in South Africa, it is important to document how this lockdown impacts the lives of South Africans. The lockdown impacts key elements of social life, particularly related to individuals’ free movement, physical contact, ability to purchase goods and services (specifically alcohol, cigarettes and cooked food), attend religious and group events, including funerals, and sanitation practices. The nationwide lockdown confining people to their homes will likely have an impact of family relations, mental health and wellbeing, potential exposure to GBV and other forms of violence, work and income, schooling and tertiary studies, and perceptions of safety.

Study approach

In response to these unprecedented events, the Centre for Community based Research is exploring South Africans’ experiences during the COVID-19 lockdown. We primarily employ a qualitative research approach, supported by quantitative surveys. The qualitative nature of the study is embedded within our intention to describe and explore South Africans’ experiences and perceptions of the lockdown period and COVID-19/Coronavirus, focusing on positive and negative outcomes. We are particularly interested in people’s experiences and perceptions in preparation for, during and immediately after lockdown.

Given that we are required to uphold social distancing practices during the lockdown, we are employing innovative approaches to recruit and communicate with participants. Social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp will be used to purposefully recruit a convenience study sample. Engagement with study participants will be done via WhatsApp using interactive audio and visual data collection methodologies. The use of audio and visual methodologies provides poignant auditory and visual evidence capturing the lived experiences of South Africans.

This current study provides an opportunity to better understand the lived experiences, challenges and coping strategies for those living in imposed lockdown conditions. It is important to acknowledge that state imposed regulations aimed at protecting South Africans from the spread of COVID-19 may have a real impact on citizens’ daily lives during this historic period. This study thus has the potential to capture important data and life events which documents this period in South African history. We will also be able to ascertain South Africans’ perceptions and misconceptions of the Coronavirus which could inform awareness raising activities to address stigmas and the spread of fake news. Data from this study could be used to understand familial relations and ways to strengthen family, community and societal connections, which may usefully inform future interventions.

Who to contact to get more information

If you would like to participate in the study, or know of anyone who might be interested, please get in touch with us on

     065 851 6942

If you would like more information on the study, please get in touch in the following ways

Principal Investigators
Candice Groenewald, PhD (cgroenewald@hsrc.ac.za)
Zaynab Essack, PhD (zessack@hsrc.ac.za)
Natasha Van der Pol, MA (ngillespie@hsrc.ac.za)

Project Manager
Thobeka Ntini, MA (tntini@hsrc.ac.za)

Xolani Ntinga, MA
Alastair van Heerden, PhD
Inbarani Naidoo, PhD

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Centre for Community-based Research