No one will be arrested for not wearing a mask - yet

Government says non-adherence to the new regulation might force them to reconsider if individuals should face the law for not wearing masks.

From L to R: Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe, Justice Minister Ronald Lamola, Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula and Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma at a briefing on 16 April 2020. Picture: GCIS.

JOHANNESBURG - Government said on Monday it hoped that no one would be fined or face criminal charges for not adhering to the new law forcing South Africans to wear masks in all public spaces.

While individuals cannot be fined or arrested for not wearing masks just yet, government said should non-adherence to the regulation continue, this might force its hand.

Currently shop owners, building managers and other compliance officers in public spaces will be held liable for breaking the law if people are found in their facilities not to be wearing masks.

The amendment to level three regulations - which now makes it mandatory to wear masks - was published in the government gazette on Sunday and emphasised by the National COVID-19 Command Council.

Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola said the move wasn't an easy decision.

"We were very reluctant from the beginning to criminalise this issue. but there have been instances where people have been irresponsible. They have not worn a mask when in public places, including when entering shops and in taxis."

Given the introduction of the new curfew limiting movement between 9pm and 4am, Lamola said law enforcement would demand that permits be produced by those needing to travel during these times.

However – despite this – members of the public can still be asked about their movements even during the day to ensure people are not unnecessarily leaving their homes – except for work and other allowed circumstances.