Feeble face mask regulations

Wearing a face mask continues to be mandatory under lockdown level 2 as stated in the Disaster Management Act.

The law says people must wear masks covering their mouths and noses in public, but the police aren’t acting against the many who don’t, saying there’s nothing to charge them with.

The Disaster Management Act says its mandatory for people to wear masks in public, but fails to mention any penalties for those who don’t. The only people who face possible fines and imprisonment for up to six months, according to the regulations, are public transport operators, building owners or managers, employers and school principals who fail to take reasonable steps to ensure those entering premises under their control comply with the mask regulations.

Simply not wearing a mask in public is unlikely to get you arrested.

Captain Nopaya Madyibi, from Milnerton police station, said “there was no offence for the average man walking the street without a mask”.

And when Tabletalk asked Captain Adrian Chandler, from Table View police, how many arrests they had made of people not wearing masks, she referred us to the provincial police media office, saying she wasn’t allowed to release any statements relating to arrests during the state of disaster.

But provincial police spokesman, Captain FC van Wyk, also didn’t answer questions. And he referred us back to local police stations for comment.

At shopping malls in Sunningdale, Milnerton and Table View, we found plenty of “no mask, no entry” posters and floor markings at shops to keep customers apart, but along the Koeberg Road corridor and Freedom Way in Joe Slovo many people weren’t wearing masks.

Cheryl Castle, the chairwoman of the Brooklyn, Ysterplaat Neighbourhood Watch (BYNHW), said that during their patrols they asked people to put masks on if they found them not wearing them.

“It’s frightening that it’s not taken seriously to the point that none of the traders are compliant, and the shops and bars are packed over the required capacity,” she said.

Patric Mbangula, secretary of the Ysterplaat Joe Slovo Taxi Association (YJSTA), said it remained a requirement for passengers to wear masks.

“No mask, no boarding or entering the rank space,” he said.

Maret Lesch, spokesperson for the provincial Department of Health said it was everyone’s responsibility to wear a clean cloth mask when leaving the house and that non-compliance could be reported to SAPS.

“Whether you go to school, work, the shop, or exercise, by wearing a mask you prevent any droplets which can contain coronavirus from spreading and infecting someone else. Remember, you may carry the virus without experiencing any symptoms.”

She said “a second wave” of covid-19 infection was a possibility.

“Our best defence against new infections remains changing our behaviour and observing safety precautions, such as wearing our masks, physical distancing, and hand washing. We must not become complacent, but remain vigilant and continue to wash our hands often, to wear our masks when we go out, to keep a distance of at least 1.5 metres from other people, and to stay home when you feel sick.”

Dr Zahid Badroodien, the mayoral committee member for community service and health, said Covid-19 safety regulations were more important now, under level 2, than ever to avoid a potential second wave of infections.

“This is not the time to let our guard down and become Covid-complacent. It is important that each and every person continues to wear their mask in public, washes their hands regularly and thoroughly, and keeps a distance from others at all times.”