R100 fine enough to think twice about travelling without a mask.
Photo for illustration: iStock
As the world rushes to deal with a second wave of Covid-19 and populations face a return to hard lockdowns, we ask ourselves: what can we do? We, as individuals?
Well, the simplest thing we can do is wear a mask that covers both our mouth and nose; a mask worn whenever we are out in public. This needs to be understood by all and duly enforced.
Wearing a mask is never going to stop you from being infected with Covid-19 but the mask is not about you, it is about all the other people around you.
With a virus easily transmitted through airborne droplets, your wearing a mask limits the chance of anything being spread from you to others in your immediate vicinity.
It is important to remember that not all carriers present symptoms but can be just as contagious.
So, even if you don’t think you are infectious, you still need to wear a mask. If we all wear masks, we will slow down the spread.
With the new South African strain vigorously taking hold and any vaccine being available to the man in the street only a distant reality, this is now even more important than it ever was before.
The capabilities of the health system – both private and public – will only stretch so far and, indeed, are already at their limits in many parts of the country.
Under the current lockdown regulations, it is a criminal offence to not wear a mask in public, yet many still do not do so.
It was only a short time ago that President Cyril Ramaphosa declared: “A person who does not wear a mask could be arrested and prosecuted. On conviction, they will be liable to fine or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding six months or to both a fine and imprisonment.”
READ MORE: 7,000 people arrested for not wearing masks got criminal records – Cele
But this is a threat that in the South African reality is virtually meaningless and apart from some gung-ho policing, will have limited effect on most people.
We need to take a leaf out of someone else’s book and, this time, not from the US or Europe but a little closer to home, to Egypt.
At the beginning of the year Egypt introduced a 50 Egyptian pounds (about R48) spot fine and in two days had collected nearly £1.5 million, with 21 000 of the people fined being drivers of mass transportation.
Change the current regulations of “potential arrest and fine if convicted” to a R100 spot fine for drivers of all vehicles carrying people not wearing masks.
People need to be wearing them, not tucked in a pocket or handbag.
Drivers of public transport already have a legal obligation to make sure that their passengers wear masks, but this should be extended to taxis and private vehicles, even if they have only one person in them.
With the driver being the one fined, this will become a self-policed exercise. Pedestrians also need to be fined on the spot.
As is so often the case with global issues, SA will have its own unique way of responding and this could well be one of them.
R100 is enough to make the majority of people think twice about travelling without a mask, especially those on a lower income, and can be easily collected by the police through either pulling vehicles over or stopping people in the street.
But, corruption? What of it? This is one occasion where what happens to the money collected becomes immaterial.
This is not a fundraiser and by creating a potential ready source of income, however unpalatable that may sound, will also become self-supporting.
With the holidays over and a return to work for most people, SA will see a large increase in the number of people travelling to and from the work environment and this is where the wearing of masks is most crucial.
Loukes is an audio designer, author and Covid-19 survivor.
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