The country is in lockdown, and communicating remotely has never been more important. Technology is a saving grace for many. Nafisa Akabor rounds up the most useful tools to use during this time.

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If you’ve been practising social distancing, then the transition to a lockdown should be less difficult; and undoubtedly the most important thing for a South African to comply with amid the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic. Working from home has become a reality, but being stuck indoors can be mentally taxing. We’ve rounded up a few useful apps, websites and games, including those that have temporarily opened access to help during these trying times.


The most popular video calling services for business include Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Google Hangouts Meet. Zoom has a free option of up to 40 minutes per call and Teams is free for up to 50 people per meeting. Hangouts is available to subscribers of G Suite, which starts at $6 (R106) per month, but all advanced features have been made free to G Suite users. The classic Hangouts app is free.

If you’re missing friends and family, try daily or weekly video chats to reconnect and check in on each other. Between WhatsApp group video calling (up to four people) and Group FaceTime (up to 32 people), just make sure you’re on a stable Wi-Fi connection. Zoom is also useful in keeping family ties intact.

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Yale University’s most popular class, The Science of Wellbeing, is now available as an online course for free. Listed on the Coursera website, you can start immediately and at your own schedule. It includes a series of challenges designed to increase your happiness and build productive habits. It’s available in English with English subtitles, and takes approximately 20 hours to complete.


The award-winning Woebot app is an artificial intelligence emotional assistant that lets you vent and send messages when you need it the most. The chatbot has been trained in cognitive behavioural therapy by a group of psychologists and provides encouraging feedback. The chatbot will check in on you every day for two weeks, provided you turn on notifications. It’s worth a try if you’d rather not speak to someone you know. Plus it’s free on Android and iOS.



The Yuppiechef Cooking School has made a number of courses free for 30 days. Professional chefs teach you to master popular recipes, techniques and cooking styles in a series of high-quality video tutorials. It includes notes, recipes and quizzes based on what you’ve learnt. The course covers quick dinners, French classics, cooking with meat and fish, sweet treats, sauces, breakfast favourites and chocolate creations.


The Skillshare hub has extended its offering to freelancers, artists and the community at large with a free two-month access to thousands of classes ranging from creativity to technology, and business to lifestyle. Skillshare wants you to keep your brain engaged with courses such as creative writing, photo editing, graphic design and web development.



If you’re a teacher, Google has created a hub of information and tools to help educators and students stay connected via remote teaching. The portal helps with everything you need to set up your home for video calling, including hosting classes on Hangouts Meet, live Q&As with students through upvotes and live stream lessons by schedules based on bandwidth availability. There are also tips on how to teach without video calls.



The Nike Training Club app is a good place to start during the lockdown, even if you’ve never gone to gym. It has free workouts that last for 15 to 60 minutes, at both beginner and intermediate levels. It includes training for small spaces, boosting your mood, something in 20 minutes, agility training, bodyweight only and training by muscle group. It’s comprehensive, lets you earn trophies and badges, and includes a leaderboard to compete with friends.



If you’ve never considered gaming before, now might be a good time to start. One of the most highly rated new titles is Nintendo’s Animal Crossing: New Horizons for Nintendo Switch. It lets you escape to a deserted island to explore, create and build your own getaway. You can upskill along the way, make use of natural resources and consult your app to keep track of your Nook Miles, as the aim of the game is to pay off your debt to Tom Nook. 

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Another highly anticipated title this year from Bethesda Softworks is Doom Eternal, the sequel to the rebooted franchise from 2016, Doom. This first-person shooter might feel too real – it’s the end of the world and you have to slay demons to save it. The fast-paced campaign mode takes roughly 15 hours to complete, and promises aggressive and engaging combat that challenges you to master new abilities and weapons. It is available as a digital download for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

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Remember, creating or spreading misinformation about a coronavirus in South Africa could land you in jail. Use reputable sources such as the department of health’s official website, which is updated daily, at It can also be accessed if you have no data via the portal. The accompanying official WhatsApp support line is available on 0600 123 456. Save it to contacts and start with off with “Hi”.

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