The Negative Impacts of COVID-19 Containment Measures on South African Families - Overview and Recommendations

Babatope O. Adebiyi1, *, Nicolette V. Roman1, Rachel Chinyakata1, Tolulope V. Balogun1
1 Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies of Children, Families and Society, Faculty of Community and Health Sciences, University of the Western Cape, Cape Town, South Africa

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© 2021 Adebiyi et al.

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies of Children, Families and Society, University of the Western Cape, Robert Sobukwe Road, Bellville, 7535, Cape Town, South Africa; E-mail:


The World Health Organization (WHO) reported various pneumonia cases (‘Coronavirus Disease 2019’ [COVID-19]) on 31 December 2019 in Wuhan City, China, which has spread to many countries, including South Africa. In response to this, the President of South Africa declared a state of national disaster on 15th March 2020, followed by introducing various COVID-19 containment measures to minimize the spread of the virus. This paper examines the negative impacts that COVID-19 containment measures may have had on the family as a unit of society and furthermore provides recommendations to mitigate the impacts of these measures. It can be concluded that COVID-19 containment measures, specifically the lockdown restrictions, would yield both short-term and long-term impacts on proper family functioning. Several families in South Africa have been impacted financially due to the closure of business which led to the temporary/ permanent unemployment of some breadwinners in the families. This also has had a cascading impact on the food security of families and their ability to afford other basic necessities. Distress as a result of financial challenges or failure to provide for the family alongside spending much time locked down together as a family has also led to violence in the family. This was further exacerbated by the fact that the victims were stuck with the abusers and some could not report or find help due to the restricted movements. Furthermore, since most institutions predominantly moved learning online, results indicated that the lockdown restrictions affected the ability of some individuals especially those from poor families to access formal education during the period due to the lack of digital devices and internet facilities. In order to mitigate the impacts of the COVID-19 containment measures on the family, there is a need for collaborative efforts at intrapersonal, interpersonal, institutional, community and policy levels using the ecological framework.

Keywords: COVID-19, Impact, Containment measures, Family, South Africa, World Health Organization.