The adherence to the policy on face masks in public has significantly improved in Matabeleland at a time when the country is experiencing an unprecedented surge in both Covid-19 infections and deaths, CITE has observed.
Nearly a year ago when Zimbabwe recorded its first coronavirus case there was resistance and reluctance on masks by many people, despite the government having made it mandatory for citizens to wear them in public places.
Some people would just carry scarfs or pieces of cloth for use in the event they met police officers.
There were those in town who would daringly board ZUPCO buses without masks when enforcement had somewhat weakened.
When lockdown measures were adjusted last October with life almost returning to normal, some people literally dumped masks.
When CITE visited Mangwe in Matabeleland South, villagers could be seen going about their business without masks.
In the high density areas of Bulawayo such as Emganwini, Nketa and Cowdray Park residents could be seen milling around business centres without masks.
However, since the festive season kicked in with the rise in Covid-19 infections and now deaths as well, compliance on masks seems to have significantly improved notwithstanding thousands have been arrested across the country during the current lockdown for not wearing them.
A snap survey by CITE in Bulawayo this week showed that compliance has significantly improved.
Residents could be seen walking on the streets of the city masked.
Even the vendors who have since returned to the city centre in violation of the lockdown measures are complying on masks.
“At first people did not want to spend their money on masks which were then very expensive protecting themselves on something they considered new and that’s why they preferred to use scarfs,” said Grace Dlomo of Emakhandeni.
“But now many people appreciate that Covid is real and wear masks to protect themselves. It is even fashionable now to wear a mask.”
Thabani Ncube, a resident of Luveve said the high number of Covid-19 related deaths recorded daily became a wake-up call for people to wear masks.
“Yes of course, people have realised that Covid is real,” he said.
“They have seen the deaths of people they know. But some are still ignorant; they only wear masks when they see the police.”
Social commentator, Fredrick Tafadzwa Chisero said more awareness campaigns on the pandemic were still needed.
“Assuming the Covid-19 deaths have changed people’s perception, will be the greatest mistake for our government rather it calls for an integrated awareness communication strategy,” he told CITE.
He said it was unfortunate that while Covid-19 is a disaster, Zimbabwe does not seem to have a disaster management plan (DMP) adding the government was reactive rather than proactive.
“I therefore recommend that the government goes back to the drawing board, analyse our situation and propose solutions that speak to our specific circumstances,” he said.
“How do we prevent community based spread in high density suburbs, how do we minimise human contact at boreholes, shopping centres and public transport systems?”