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Covid-19: Masks off but not everyone is ready to drop them

Bongani Ngubani celebrates on hearing that wearing a mask is no longer mandatory in South Africa. Picture: Jacques Naude/African News Agency (ANA)

Bongani Ngubani celebrates on hearing that wearing a mask is no longer mandatory in South Africa. Picture: Jacques Naude/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Jun 27, 2022


Pretoria - The government’s recent decision to do away with the mandatory rule to wear masks indoors has drawn mixed reactions between those saying it was overdue and cautious naysayers.

The internet streets went wild when Health Minister Dr Joe Phaahla published the latest amendments in the government gazette following a meeting of the National Coronavirus Command Council which questioned the relevance of the remaining Covid-19 regulations.

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Although a lot of people discussed the seriousness of the impact of lifting the regulation along with the mandatory cap on large gatherings, some people made light of the announcements and joked about how security guards would run out of things to do now that they could not enforce the wearing of masks.

However, to a lot of people this announcement was serious because it left them with a hard decision to make about whether or not they would abandon their masks or keep wearing them for their protection; particularly parents who had to decide for their children as well.

Minister for Basic Education Angie Motshekga expressed support for the repealing of the masks mandate for pupils and said the Department of Education would align itself with the new changes.

Royal Schools announced they would support pupils and staff who wished to continue wearing masks indoors.

Parents Nakedi Maduma and Irene Sebaku, of Mabopane, said South Africa was not yet out of the woods as far as beating Covid-19 was concerned.

They said the vaccination rate among various groups was not satisfactory and there was no guarantee children would not pass the virus to each other in schools.

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Maduma said: “My cousin’s daughter goes to crèche where they have been wearing masks since lockdown was implemented. The masks not only protected the children from Covid-19. but they were also protected from illnesses like flu, which passes on easily among children.

“The children are so used to having a mask on the whole day. It cannot be easy to just revert back to normal as if the virus does not exist anymore.”

Louise du Preez of Garsfontein, a mother of two, said she was not ready to throw away her mask.

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“I don’t know if I will ever be able to walk into a building without my mask. It makes me feel safer. Perhaps Covid-19 is not such a big threat anymore, but I will not take chances. Besides, it’s winter and flu season and I feel a lot more protected against other people’s germs by masking.”

Du Preez added that she told her children to also wear masks when indoors.

“The harm by not wearing a mask in public, in my opinion, weighs far heavier than wearing one,” she said.

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Colette Botha, a fitness instructor also from Pretoria East, said while she did not wear a mask while exercising, she was set on still wearing it when she went shopping or to church.

“I know it’s not mandatory anymore, but I’m not ready to throw my mask away. I’m not sure how long I will continue wearing it, but there’s no question that I will be wearing it when I’m in close contact with people, such as on an airplane.”

The South African Parastatal and Tertiary Institutions Union welcomed the announcement made by Phaahla but wanted to know what the next step was regarding the policy towards vaccination.

“We are still working towards what is best for our members when it comes to Covid-19 Vaccination Standard Operating Procedure, implemented by universities around the country,” said general secretary Ben van der Walt.

Pretoria News