Dr. Eugene Brink, AfriForum’s Strategic Advisor for Community Affairs
COVID-19 and the resulting lockdown in South Africa have taken the public by surprise in more ways than one, and the confusion on how it impacts some situations is bound to continue for a while. Movement has been severely restricted, making it difficult for patients to undergo some necessary medical procedures.
There are many questions about people who need to travel to another province for emergency medical treatment or treatment for chronic conditions between 26 March 2020 and 16 April 2020. There are people who, for example, have to travel from one province to another for cancer treatment by their oncologist. Despite the fact that travelling between provinces, cities and municipal areas are currently prohibited, there are thankfully some exceptions to this rule.
You are allowed to leave your home if you are delivering or receiving an essential service, have a medical emergency, need to get life-saving medical treatment or treatment for a chronic condition, of if you are a recipient of a social grant.
Officers on duty will most likely pull you over in the event of you travelling between provinces, and you could be requested to show your paperwork. You can show them a print-out of an e-mail from your doctor and any other supporting documents proving that you have a bona fide and important appointment. The same will apply when you are pulled over while heading back home afterwards.
Also have your doctor’s telephone number ready because officers could ask for it in order to confirm your appointment.
Another problem with travelling during the lockdown is that vehicles that usually accommodate four passengers will now only be allowed to have one occupant. If you are driving yourself it won’t pose a problem. If the patient isn’t able to drive, it will however be necessary for a driver to accompany them. The best solution in this case is to visit the doctor as arranged and to receive the necessary treatment, but having your paperwork at hand.
Be aware that you might get tested for COVID-19 while you are travelling. It is therefore advisable to be friendly, calm and helpful and to co-operate during the testing process. It’s for everyone’s benefit and could help to minimise problems.
Although there are admittedly still some grey areas, it shouldn’t be a problem to travel or be transported over provincial boundaries to get essential medical treatment. Everything should run smoothly if you prepare the required documentation, act courteous and if you show your willingness to be tested if requested.