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Covid-19: South Africa gets tougher on face masks

Neighbouring South Africa which today retreated from a rather relaxed Level 1 to a harsher Level 3 of its Covid-19-induced lockdown owing to an enormous surge in coronavirus cases that have reached a 1 million mark, has tightened screws on the wearing of cloth masks.

A second wave of infections driven by a new Covid-19 variant has forced more severe restrictions on Africa’ most industrialised economy.

“We now know that the simplest and most effective way to reduce transmission of the coronavirus is to wear a cloth mask that covers the nose and mouth whenever in public,” said President Cyril Ramaphosa in a televised address to the nation Monday night.

“Until now the owners and managers of shops and public buildings, employers and operators of public transport have had a legal responsibility to ensure that everyone entering their premises or vehicle is wearing a mask. But given the grave danger our country now faces, the adjusted level 3 regulations will make every individual legally responsible for wearing a mask in public.”

He said failure to wear a mask in public places now constitutes a serious offence.

“From now on it is compulsory for every person to wear a mask in a public space,” emphasized Ramaphosa.

“A person who does not wear a cloth mask covering over the nose and mouth in a public place will be committing an offence. A person who does not wear a mask could be arrested and prosecuted. On conviction, they will be liable to a fine or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding six months or to both a fine and imprisonment.”

He added: “This is a drastic measure but is now necessary to ensure compliance with the most basic of preventative measures.”

Other restrictions under the level 3 lockdown also include a ban on alcohol sales, earlier curfews, revised limitations on social gatherings, a ban on beaches, dams, lakes, rivers, public parks, and public swimming pools in hotspot areas.

The ‘adjusted’ Level 3 lockdown regulations will be reviewed on 15 January 2021.

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