A face mask has become a required part of our outfit whenever stepping out into public amid the COVID-19 pandemic. A new study, however, reveals that not all South Africans are following government-issued regulations.
The University of Johannesburg (UJ) and the Human Sciences Research Council carried out a study into how many South Africans were wearing a face mask when leaving their homes.
The survey, conducted in stages from April to September 2020 through an online survey using the popular data free Moya Messenger app, included 8000 respondents and revealed that compliance was low at the beginning of the lockdown.
At the beginning of April, 37% said they always wore a mask, which increased to just under 50% by the end of April. In July it rose above 70% and stabilised for August and September.
This means that one in three South African adults were not always wearing a mask when they left their homes. Of the 30% who did not always wear a mask, about 20% of respondents said they only wore a mask “most of the time” and 7% said they wore one “some of the time”. Only 2% said they never wore a mask and 1% declined to comment.
“The findings point to a worrying growth in pandemic fatigue,” said Professor Carin Runciman, Associate Professor at the Centre for Social Change.
“The greater number of people that do not comply with public health measures, such as wearing masks in public, the greater the likelihood of a second wave in infections, as is currently occurring in Europe and the US. There is a need for strong and continued public health messaging that the threat posed from the virus is not over even though we are now at a lower alert level.”
The online Imperial College London Survey reveals that these statistics are in line with other countries like China, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Brazil where similar studies were carried out at about the same period.
The numbers are much lower in Scandinavian countries where most governments have not made face masks mandatory. Only 2% of residents in Sweden reported that they always wore a mask in public.