South Africa

'Peer management' needed to enforce wearing of masks, says Prof Glenda Gray

'Peer management' needed to enforce wearing of masks, says Prof Glenda Gray

South Africans have to “peer manage” each other into wearing face masks in public, says the president of the SA Medical Research Council, Prof Glenda Gray.

Over the past few weeks, social media has witnessed an increase in “mask-shaming” as some users said they were shamed for wearing a mask in public and even in restaurants.

Speaking on SAfm, Gray said there is lockdown fatigue and people are letting their guard down during level 1.

Gray said wearing a mask in public should be like wearing a condom to protect yourself from contracting HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases.

“A mask will help decrease your chances of exposure and if you do have the coronavirus, it will help prevent transmission. We have to keep reminding people that wearing a mask is like brushing your teeth in the morning,” she said.

Gray said there needs to more “visible policing”, saying police should remind people to wear their masks. However, she said she doesn't want to see police brutality.

“There’s a difference between visible policing and supporting citizens to change their behaviour and being brutal. We must be careful that we don’t cross that line. During level 5 of the lockdown, the police were enforcing mask-wearing and those kinds of things reinforce good behaviour.

“We also have to ask our citizens to ‘peer manage’ each other and ask others things like 'where is your mask?' and 'why did you not wash your hands? We need to encourage this kind of reflex behaviour,” said Gray.

Earlier this week, TimesLIVE reported that KwaZulu-Natal premier Sihle Zikalala warned that another hard lockdown could be expected if South Africans did not change their reckless behaviour.

He said a return to a hard lockdown was on the cards but could be prevented if the country sees a decline in the number of daily coronavirus cases.

“Looking at the statistics, we can safely say we are definitely going back into a hard lockdown if there is no urgent and drastic change in behaviour,” said Zikalala.

However, on Tuesday, President Cyril Ramaphosa said talk of a return to a hard lockdown was premature.

He said what was required for now was strict adherence to Covid-19 safety protocols, especially in public spaces.