said Nonceba Ndlebe, situated in an informal settlement in Khayelitsha, Cape Town (Lali et al 2020).
Estimates of the number of households that live in informal settlements differ, but one is that there are about 146,000 households in 437 areas in Cape Town- with 7% in informal backyard structures and 13,5% in informal settlements. Informal settlements do not provide legal security of tenure; comply with planning and building regulations and generally lack adequate services, such as piped water (Mistro and Hensher 2009; Place 2018).
A national lockdown in South Africa on the 23rd March followed after the virus reached almost every community in South Africa, transcending race and socio- economic barriers. In July, reports showed Cape Town had been the most affected south African city in terms of COVID-19 so far (figure 2). As of 6th July 2020, there had been 50,000 known cases, particularly in two districts with informal housing; Khayelitsha (6,721 cases out of 400,000 people) and Klipfontein (6,428 cases in 380,000 people). These districts’ prevalence rates were over 1,600 per 100,000 people compared to the city’s average of 1,174 cases per 100,000 people (Smit 2020).
Reasons for this include overcrowded conditions whereby many families live in one single room. “Population density is such a key factor. If you don’t have the ability to social distance, the virus spreads,” said the head of South Africa’s ministerial advisory team on COVID- 19. The Khayelitsha District Hospital was full to the brim of COVID cases July compared to hundreds of surfers in the affluent area of False Bay (Harding 2020).
Secondly, the WHO’s first recommended protective measure against COVID-19 is to wash hands frequently with soap. However, less than half of all South Africans have running water in their homes. Safe access to hand washing is still a luxury for many people. If COVID-19 had happened during the drought, the situation would be beyond control.
There was a large contrast in the surfers in False Bay compared to the Khayelitsha District Hospital, full to the brim of COVID cases (Harding 2020). An interview with a local principal handing out food said “the virus has exposed underlying issues. People were already unemployed here, lockdown or not,” (Harding 2020).
5000 plastic bottle hand wash units were sourced across Cape Town’s informal settlements by the National Business Initiative in partnership with local NGOs and the City of Cape Town.
Other methods include mandatory masks at all times when leaving the home (Blumberg 2020).
Testing was concentrated in informal housing areas and other “hotspots”. Furthermore, in April 2020, the government announced plans to fast track the provision of temporary water into the settlements and relocate 3500 informal settlement dwellers to other sites (Smit 2020).
COVID-19 and UPE
The spread of COVID-19 shows evolving global peripheries are susceptible to diseases due to the vast interconnections between bodies gloablly (Connoly et al., 2020). Analysing the metabolisms between spread more geographically, the virus is shown to proliferate in extended forms or urbanisation and therefore a focus on social and spatial peripheries such as the townships is necessary (Biglieri et al., 2020) Moreover, research shows the potential for secondary transmission via wastewater which has been found in samples across the globe (Liu et al., 2020). Service provision should be prioritised.
‘The WHO sounded alarms for the spread of coronavirus in Africa,’ however yet again external sources have merged the entire continent into one, just as the infamous Binyavanga Wainaina stated. Instead, an early lockdown and clear message about masks has attributed to far lower deaths than thought as South Africa’s first wave of infections was seven times lower than Britain’s. Out of the 650,000 confirmed cases in South Africa, only 15,641 died (Imray 2020). Even if deaths have been under reported here or this is due to the youthful population, the country has still performed well.
Overall, COVID-19 has further highlighted the importance of the flow of water through a city for sanitation and human health. In the context of metabolism, the spread of the virus shows the interconnections between spatial and economic areas which Cape Town has done well to manage.
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