Across South Africa, people had been bracing for the lockdown. Some had piled shopping carts high with bottles of beer and wine, preparing for a much-debated feature of the lockdown — a ban on the sale of alcohol and tobacco. Anyone defying the ban would face a penalty, the authorities said.
In Johannesburg on Thursday, hours before the lockdown took effect, a line stretched outside Makro, a wholesale store. Tshidi Molubi, a 51-year-old resident of the Soweto neighborhood, joined the queue before the store opened at 9 a.m.
She was laid off from a bank a few months earlier, and said she was using her savings to buy essentials like rice, flour and eggs.
“If you can’t go out, at least we can make a dumpling,” Ms. Molubi said.
Akhona Makasi, a 35-year-old freelancer in the film industry, left Johannesburg on Wednesday to visit her grandparents in the Eastern Cape province. But she said she had rushed home “without calculating the risk.”
Few people wore masks on the journey home and when she used hand sanitizer and disinfected her seat, commuters in the packed bus complained about the smell.
At home, her grandparents refused to self-isolate or ask that visitors sanitize their hands. Villagers gathered for a funeral and slaughtered a cow.
“If I had a basic income, I would have stayed in Johannesburg and self-isolated, not risking my grandparents’ lives,” she said.
Lynsey Chutel reported from Johannesburg, and Abdi Latif Dahir from Nairobi, Kenya. Ruth Maclean contributed reporting from Dakar, Senegal.