Many still going without masks

Signs at mall entrances remind shoppers to wear masks.
Malls and masks and shopping in Goodwood and Parow. Video: KAREN WATKINS

It remains mandatory under the level 2 lockdown for the public to wear masks covering mouths and noses, but many continue to flout the regulations.

There appeared to be good mask compliance at the three shopping malls we visited in Parow and Goodwood, but a lot of the shoppers and informal traders in the pedestrian lane between Voortrekker Road and Parow station were not wearing masks. Some traders had City of Cape Town Covid-19 toolkits, which include a physical-distancing mat, sanitiser, two cloth masks, a beanie and information on how to operate safely during the pandemic.

Derek Bock, the CEO of the Voortrekker Road Corridor Improvement District, said too many people were still not wearing masks or taking Covid-19 seriously. Entering Level 2 did not mean Covid-19 was no more, he said.

Part of the problem could be that while the amendments to the Disaster Management Act regulations make it mandatory for people to wear masks in public, they make no allowance for them to be prosecuted. The only people who face possible fines and imprisonment, according to the regulations, are public transport operators, building owners or managers, employers and school principals who fail to take reasonable steps to ensure those entering premises under their control comply with the mask regulations.

Simply not wearing a mask in public is unlikely to get you arrested. Bellville police spokesman Captain Jonathan Blankenberg said there was nothing in the current regulations saying the police should arrest people without masks. “We cannot charge anyone for not wearing a mask,” he said. 

Northern News sent questions to the provincial police media office four times from August 5 to August 17, seeking clarity on this, and asking whether police had made any arrests for mask non-compliance, including under those sections of the regulations that allow for prosecution, but we have yet to get a response.

Mr Bock said most businesses in the Voortrekker Road precinct were taking adequate precautions, but there appeared to be inadequate physical distancing in queues outside the post office and the Home Affairs office. 

Gavin Jones, of Growthpoint, which manages N1 City, said they followed a strict “no mask no entry policy”. Customers insisting on not wearing masks would be asked to leave and, if necessary, the police would be called, but that had not been necessary. “We are very proud of our N1 shoppers who understand that they are not only protecting themselves but also our staff, the tenants and other customers in the mall,” he said.

Pieter de Jager, of Evolution Property Management, and Parow Centre, said signs at the mall’s entrances warned everyone to wear masks. Only a few people had been refused entry, he said.

Goodwood Mall did not respond to questions, but Northern News found Covid-19 signage at the entrances and all shops had staff on duty armed with sanitiser.

At Parow Centre, Northern News asked a taxi guard, wearing a mask but not covering his nose and mouth, how many passengers his taxi carried. He said 18 including himself and the driver. Asked about sanitiser, he said it was a new taxi route and the driver kept forgetting to collect sanitiser at the depot. He said he made sure all passengers wore masks otherwise the police pulled them over and fined them.