Medical staff at the Khayelitsha District Hospital's Covid-19 isolation ward. People mis-wearing the personal protective kit are: (a) making a mockery of the people who are actually exposed to the rest of us popping in, ostensibly for a basket of groceries and (b) keeping much-needed kit out of the system and the people who need it the most - the health-care professionals, says the writer. Picture:Brendan Magaar/African News Agency (ANA)
Medical staff at the Khayelitsha District Hospital's Covid-19 isolation ward. People mis-wearing the personal protective kit are: (a) making a mockery of the people who are actually exposed to the rest of us popping in, ostensibly for a basket of groceries and (b) keeping much-needed kit out of the system and the people who need it the most - the health-care professionals, says the writer. Picture:Brendan Magaar/African News Agency (ANA)

Safety muses, nanny killjoys: you’ve got to be kitting!

By Kevin Ritchie Time of article published Apr 4, 2020

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We are now in Week 2 of the 21-day lockdown. It’s a week since you could last buy liquor - or cigarettes. But apart from that, the world has not come to an end.

There’s food on the shelves of supermarkets (as promised) and most city centres and suburbs look like something out of the Zombie Apocalypse, such has been the success of the lockdown (notwithstanding the much-publicised difficulties in some townships).

So, what’s with the gloves and the face masks? Apart from the incredible range; from survivor-style T-shirt buffs to Grey’s Anatomy cast-offs all the way through to industrial respirators fit for handling noxious chemicals - and that’s just the masks - there’s also the gloves.

There’s the white latex first aid type, the blue crime-scene specials and even dead ordinary bike gloves. Then there’s how they’re worn.

Politicians wear their face masks slung under their throats or with their noses poking over the top at media briefings; as do police at roadblocks and the “let-me-speak-to-the-manager” Karens navigating their way down the supermarket aisles.

Gloves are the same problem. Most of them stay on the hands, but scratch noses and every other orifice in between touching every other soiled surface and contaminating those who might not have been.

What happened to staying 2m apart and washing our hands for 20 seconds? As it is, there’s so much alcohol-based hand sanitiser in some of the smaller shopping centres that it’s probably a mercy that people can’t smoke in public, because you would go up in flames if you stood within 15m of a smoker.

The biggest problem is that all these people mis-wearing the personal protective kit are: (a) making a mockery of the people who are actually exposed to the rest of us popping in, ostensibly for a basket of groceries and (b) keeping much needed kit out of the system and the people who need it the most - the health-care professionals.

There is another thing to consider. What message are you sending, dressed up like that when the shop attendants (and the rest of us) are not? Are you the ones who are unclean that we need protecting from? Or is it us you need protecting from?

And on the subject of inane and arbitrary behaviour, which bright spark thought that banning the sale of legal cigarettes was a good thing?

Speaking as an ex-pack-a-day-addict, to paraphrase the immortal words of Marvin Gaye: “There wouldn’t have been no mountain high, valley low or river wide enough” to stand between me and my habit, if I ran out half way through a lockdown - especially without prior warning to buy enough cartons to last until the Apocalypse.

Booze you can understand (if last week’s panic-buying didn’t give you enough of a clue), because it lowers inhibitions, leads to people socialising and basically breaking the lockdown, and possibly behaving anti-socially to boot.

But smoking? The nanny killjoys in the president’s Cabinet just could not contain themselves, could they?

The EFF’s backers must be absolutely overjoyed; in one fell swoop illegal cigarettes just went through the roof. You can’t actually buy marketing like that.

* Ritchie is a journalist and a former newspaper editor.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of IOL.

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