MAHLATSE MAHLASE: There are no politics around the COVID-19 mask - just wear one
For some of us, COVID-19 is no longer the invisible enemy. It has arrived into our homes and the exponentially growing numbers are no longer simply statistics of people we don’t know.
We now know someone who has tested positive, or more devastating, we have had to bury a loved one who died from it.
But the reality is that for many more of us, the penny has not yet dropped. Countless South Africans just don’t see that the disease threatens to overrun our healthcare system. They just can’t understand that they could be one of the thousands of people in makeshift hospitals the government has prepared, desperate for a potentially life-saving ventilator but with too few to go around.
With the easing of the lockdown, most soldiers back at the barracks and fewer police roadblocks, life is back to normal for many, and personal responsibility is taking a backseat.
A small but life-saving action of wearing a mask is being disregarded.
Some are in the US President Donald Trump brigade, which has politicised wearing the mask, linking it to being a violation of their God-given right to breath.
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They argue the government can’t tell them what to do, so they don’t wear a mask as a sign of defiance and being anti-establishment.
We have all seen videos of altercations in local retail shops. I never understand why security let them into the shops or mall in the first place.
Then there is another group of people who say the masks are “uncomfortable” and have convinced themselves it hinders them from breathing clean, free oxygen.
My worst kind of people, though, are the ones who wear the mask as a chin guard or even as a neck piece. I can understand moving it from where it’s supposed to be if you are alone. But we have all seen them in public - the ones who are talking in groups within close proximity of each other, but the mask is hanging around the wrong body part like an accessory. I want to scream, “What is the point, stupid? Why bother?”
But apparently, they bother because a taxi driver won’t let them into the vehicle without one, or they can’t get into the shops without one! So, for them it’s a case of “Let me have it just in case I run into those unreasonable, annoying mask police.”
Then there is another set of people who that argue death is part of their lives already, so “if I perish, I perish”. They argue you can wear a mask, but it doesn’t protect you from being mugged at gun point as you turn a corner into your street, or - in the face of economic hardship worsened by COVID-19 - starving to death.
We also have the private dinner party. They are just not coping with government regulations that have outlawed enjoying with friends the “simple pleasures” of life that include sharing expensive champagne at lavish dinners in the home.
They gather for their dinner parties, arguing "we were only about 20 and we all look healthy”, and then cry tears when the party leads to cluster infections.
We know that after a few glasses of our favorite tipple, social distancing and the mask goes out of the window.
We forget that so many can be positive and recover from the disease without knowing because they didn’t have any of the symptoms or fall sick – but vitally, can still spread the virus.
Government has rang the alarm bells. We are now in the eye of the storm.
Masks have been scientifically proven to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, and the more people wearing a mask, the better.
So just bloody wear the mask!
Mahlatse Mahlase is group editor-in-chief at Eyewitness News. Follow her on Twitter: @hlatseentle