SA adhering to masks as more than 70% wear them, unlike the US

But there are many who do not wear masks correctly, with some exposing their noses or frequently touching their masks, says South African Medical Research Council CEO Professor Glenda Gray.


South Africans seemed to be doing well in adhering to the rules in terms of mask-wearing as 73% said they always wore masks in outdoor settings, a figure not far off from the required 80% by the World Health Organisation. Round two of the Covid-19 Democracy Survey by the University of Johannesburg and the Human Sciences Research Council found that this number increased between 8 and 17 July as compared to the first round between April and May, where only 48% of people adhered to wearing masks. “This is impressive if we compare the figure to the US, where a…

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South Africans seemed to be doing well in adhering to the rules in terms of mask-wearing as 73% said they always wore masks in outdoor settings, a figure not far off from the required 80% by the World Health Organisation.

Round two of the Covid-19 Democracy Survey by the University of Johannesburg and the Human Sciences Research Council found that this number increased between 8 and 17 July as compared to the first round between April and May, where only 48% of people adhered to wearing masks.

“This is impressive if we compare the figure to the US, where a survey [by Gallup] showed that only 47% of Americans are wearing masks in an outdoor setting and the number goes up with indoor setting,” said director of the centre for social change at UJ, Professor Kate Alexander.

But adherence varied among higher and lower income earners, Alexander explained. 87% of people that earned an individual monthly income of R20 000 were more likely to always be wearing masks in public while that only applied to 67% of those who earned less than R1 000 a month.

“We have a big range related to income. We can’t be so sure why that is.”

A large 83% of suburban people, who tend to be better-off, wore masks as compared to 70% of people living in townships. But people in informal settlements slightly surpassed those in townships as 73% said they adhered to always wearing masks in public.

A woman selling clothes along a busy street in Olievenhoutbosch can be seen wearing a mask to prevent contracting Covid-19, 21 Agust 2020. Picture: Jacques Nelles

“[Respondents said that] people in the informal settlement are aware of absence of space to isolate and they get harassed by law enforcement. There were a number of [respondents who] emphasised the vulnerability of people in informal settlements which was leading them to be more concerned to protect themselves at least by wearing a mask,” Alexander explained.

But there were many who did not wear masks correctly, with some exposing their noses or frequently touching their masks, said South African Medical Research Council CEO Professor Glenda Gray.

“We firstly need to inform people how to correctly wear a mask – that it should at all times cover the nose, you shouldn’t touch the outside of the mask and when you remove it, don’t touch the outside and wash it with detergent. If you touch the outside and then touch your face, then you kind of reverse the importance of wearing a mask,” she said.

The survey also found 64% of adults who earned more than R20,000 had higher education and a large 81% of them reported to be always wearing a mask. One of the respondents said the lack of public education on wearing a mask affected those with less education as they did not have access to information and some medical terms were difficult for ordinary people to understand.

“I do think masks are important and have probably helped us with the epidemic but we have to use them properly. [73%] means that the message got there. It’s all about continuing with the message because sometimes there will be Covid-19 fatigue. We are where we are because people did adhere to interventions to try and contain the spread,” Gray said.

-rorisangk@citizen.co.za

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