Thousands of South Africans arrested for not wearing masks

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The South African Police Service (SAPS) said it had arrested thousands of South Africans for not wearing a mask under the country’s adjusted Level 3 lockdown rules.

Data released on Monday February 22 showed that 10,701 people were arrested in various public spaces for not wearing a mask in KZN alone, between December 29 and February 21.

Police spokesman Brigadier Jay Naicker said the failure to wear masks, in accordance with regulations, remained a constant source of concern for SAPS.

“Security forces remain particularly concerned about the high number of people arrested daily for not wearing masks in public areas.

“We call on people to maintain their social distancing. This does not appear to be happening as hordes of people are observed gathering daily in malls and other public spaces.

Criminal Offence

Under current lockdown rules in South Africa, it is a criminal offense not to wear a mask in public space.

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In January interviewPolice Minister Bheki Cele said that when people are arrested for not wearing masks they are taken to a police station where they are formally charged and have their fingerprints taken.

He added that this process will give South Africans a criminal record, which they should “be very wary of”.

Under South Africa’s Level 3 lockout regulations, a “ face mask ” means a cloth mask or a homemade item that covers the nose and mouth, or other suitable item to cover the nose and the mouth.

Wearing a face mask is compulsory for anyone in a public place. excluding a child under six years old. anyone who does not comply with a verbal instruction from an enforcement officer to wear a face shield commits an offense and is, on conviction. liable to a fine and / or imprisonment not exceeding six months.

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In addition, no person will be allowed to perform the following activities if they are not wearing a mask:

  • Use, make it work. perform any service on any form of public transport;
  • Entering or being in any building, place or premises, including government buildings, places or premises. used by the public to obtain goods or services;
  • Be in any open public space.

Mask wearing improves

Despite the high number of arrests, research shows attitudes are changing about mask wearing in South Africa.

The latest National Income Dynamics Coronavirus Rapid Mobile Survey (NIDS-CRAM) released last week shows that reported mask wearing has increased for all groups over time, regardless of Covid-19 beliefs.

Data from the group shows that in July / August 2020, around 74% of respondents reported wearing a mask, with that number increasing to 78% in November / December.

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Between July and December 2020, this increase was the largest for those who believe they are at risk of contracting Covid-19.

For comparison, data shows that reported handwashing decreased over the same period, from 60% in July / August to 53% in November / December, and physical distance also decreased.

The survey shows that township households report the lowest levels of mask wear in their community.

Community acceptance of mask wearing was highest in formal residential areas where 63% said “ everyone ” or “ most people ” wore masks in public, compared to 39 in 44% in townships and informal settlements.


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