COVID: Small South African town cuts itself off as residents agree to isolate

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Kliprand is in its second week of isolation after almost a quarter of its 250 residents tested positive for Covid-19.

A South African farming community about five hours’ drive north of Cape Town has closed its only food store and its school after the residents agreed to a self-imposed stay-at-home order.

Kliprand is in its second week of isolation after almost a quarter of its 250 residents tested positive for Covid-19.

With the closest hospital about two hours away and a round trip costing about R400 ($28), for many residents the risks involved in trying to get the medical care they might urgently require are too high. In any case, the hospital may be full just when they need it — at the time the shutdown started, there were also only about 15 beds free.

“Self-isolation is also to avoid a situation where other persons moving through the town become infected and spread it to further locations,” David Joubert, a district municipality accounting officer, said by phone. “That would be irresponsible.”

Inequality, among South Africa’s long-standing challenges, has put a goal of inoculating two-thirds of the population this year in doubt. A slow vaccination rollout means only about 4% of the national population has had any shots, just as a third wave of infections accompanies the arrival of mid-winter.

Sheltering-at-home has its own risks for this remote community. Ordering supplies online for delivery isn’t a readily available option.

Still, the effort made by Kliprand’s residents has not gone unnoticed. Communities from some of the closest towns have donated canned foods, vegetables, bread and other essentials. Representatives from a school in Vredendal, to the south, drove almost 100 miles to donate items such as disinfectant, sugar and flour.

“Kliprand is very small, an outbreak there touches everyone,” said Riaan Van der Watt, the head of Vredendal’s primary school.


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