For Elize Parker the Covid‑19 pandemic meant many challenges, from giving up her newsreading job to the void the hard lockdown created in her personal life.
“For a single person recently out of a long relationship, Covid-19 took its toll as isolation became a way of life. I had to contend with a new way of being single — without being lonely.”
Despite frequent video calls and Zoom gatherings, it was difficult.
“Tinder, online dating and pandemics do not go hand in hand. I was very much in the mood to phone old loves and make up — but could resist that!” she adds on a lighter note.
Elize Parker, who has written more than 40 fiction and nonfiction books and “produced and presented radio shows on everything from current affairs to cultural digests” now finds herself among more than a million fellow over-60s on the list to receive a Covid-19 vaccine.
The government aims to vaccinate 700 000 health workers and five million people aged 60 and over by the end of June.
When the pandemic forced South Africa into lockdown in March 2020, Elize was turning 60 and automatically placed in the high-risk category. Her age, in contrast with her full, scheduled life as a journalist, author and newsreader, prompted her to adjust her daily life dramatically.
Elize had to give up her first love — newsreading — as audio and studio work with a younger team soon became a Covid-19 hazard. She had to adapt to using online audio programs and writing news bulletins from home.
The biggest adjustment was creating safe opportunities for meeting people, especially one of her daughters, who studies at the University of Cape Town.
Daily handiwork challenges — such as fixing her car or plumbing — exacerbated her isolation. She found herself investing in tools, though she quickly adds that she is far from taking any call-out requests.
Elize did, however, put her creativity to work during the lockdown — as well as adopting a three-legged cat, and is excited to welcome “the product of long, lonely Sunday hours” on our shelves in less than a month’s time. Her trilogy Stil Vloei Die Komati (Silent Flows the Komati), with its themes of rhino poaching and human trafficking in the Laeveld, was a three-year-old project before Covid-19 began and has now finally seen the light.
Recalling her walks on the Sea Point promenade, Elize looked forward to receiving a Covid-19 vaccine — her pass to freedom.
The possibility of registering for a vaccine brings a sense of protection against severe illness or death. For Elize this may enable her to slowly move back to the routine she once knew so well.
Getting the vaccine also means a travel pass to one of her two daughters, who works in a research team on Covid-19 and other viruses in the US. While Elize patiently waits to receive her shot, her daughter has already received hers in a country that is considering vaccinating elementary school-aged children in early 2022, after starting to vaccinate children over 12 from September.
Elize was among the first to put her hand up for the vaccine when registrations opened on 16 April.
When she saw the notification she was so eager that she had to re-register after she registered before the online portal was officially live.
And when Discovery Health urged its members to register on its portal as well, Elize quickly got the hang of the medical scheme’s app, opening it for that purpose for the first time, despite being a member for some time already.
“Then the run-and-wait game started,” she says.
Four days after registering on the department of health’s online platform she received a confirmation SMS on 19 April telling her she would be advised about where and when she would need to go. She also received a confirmation email from Discovery on 6 May with the instruction to keep a close eye on her email.
“I live with my cellphone in my hand like someone waiting for the call for a date with a new romantic interest and I slavishly hop onto email because the vaccination sites have officially opened,” says Elize.
But until today Elize is left to wait and speculate whether the government knows she has working hours, or how do they know if she resides in the southern suburbs of Cape Town?
On 17 May South Africa kick-started its nationwide vaccination drive. But to her great dismay, Elize finds herself still waiting for not just a vaccine, but any form of communication.
“I don’t begrudge a single person or leader who has already been in the line for a jab, but please communicate with me. I feel as if I am asked to run and wait, run and wait.”
Despite this, Elize remains hopeful. “There might be some luck next week with vaccination sites at places like Dis-Chem opening while Discovery might open satellite sites at gyms,” she says.
Until then, Elize joins the thousands of other senior citizens who anxiously await information about their vaccines, which will hopefully enable them to return, to a large extent, to the “new normal” the country is getting used to.