Facing a maskless society

Unmasked, that’s what we are. In one fell swoop, President Cyril Ramaphosa removed our masks during this week’s family meeting.

The face covering had become a familiar feature, though it took us some time to get used to, and those who flouted the rules were arrested. At the beginning of the pandemic, only medical workers were required to wear masks.

However, the World Health Organisation discovered the virus was airborne and recommended that we cover up our faces in public spaces. Our eager beaver, Police Minister Bheki Cele, did not hesitate to crack the whip if you were caught without the face covering. More than 20 000 people were arrested or fined for contravening the Disaster Management Act, 7 400 of those for not wearing masks in public.

“I forgot it; I can’t breathe and I don’t believe Covid-19 exists” were but some of the excuses given for not covering up during the pandemic.

For abomaglassana like yours truly, our spectacles fogged up when we breathed inside our masks, obscuring our vision. Many people, including some cabinet ministers, wore their masks on their chin. Mpumalanga premier Refilwe Mtsweni-Tsipane incurred our wrath when she arrived at the funeral service of minister in the presidency Jackson Mthembu minus her mask.

Who can forget that moment when Ramaphosa had a mask malfunction when he fumbled while putting his mask on after his televised family meeting?

Robbers had a field day as they did not raise suspicion when everybody was masked. In one tragic incident, a schoolgirl was raped while walking home after she was turned away from school for not having her mask.

Eateries insisted you wore your mask at the door but allowed you to remove it to wine and dine. Enterprising people made some welcome cash from sewing cloth masks.

Two years down the line, the president has decided we can breathe easier, though with 30% of the country’s population fully vaccinated we are still far from achieving herd immunity. There were no whoops of joy when the president said we could remove our masks, probably because many people had long jettisoned lockdown restrictions, any way.

I plan to continue wearing my mask because it protects me from other airborne diseases such as influenza and tuberculosis. It also shields us from those loudmouths who send spittle flying in our faces when they talk.

 

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