When masks were made mandatory I had been making masks for just over a week. Easier said than done when power only comes back at 3 pm and four kids need to be done with school, but I needed something to keep my hands and mind busy. I was reluctant at first as a mask is only useful when used properly and made of the correct material. Anyway, as it was now mandatory I was able to donate to some institutions and make sure all the employees at the farm had a mask each. I lost count somewhere after two hundred but I probably completed over four hundred masks in about a month.
The idea with a mask is that you protect those around you in case you are asymptomatic, and so others protect you by also wearing a mask. But that is where it gets tricky as many don’t want to don the mask. Once it was made mandatory the question was how will it be enforced? Well, we soon got the idea. The police decided one day to pick up about 150 people in Kabwe town center that had no mask or were not wearing them properly. As much as I understand the urgency it was not the right thing to do. As masks are only a last resort for when we’re not able to keep enough distance to those around us, what sense did it make to bundle up 150 people, carry them to the police station only to caution them and send them off again? What if even one of them had been positive? It showed us how poorly informed the police force is on the issue of Covid-19. They seemed happier to have an excuse to harass people rather than informing the public. However this seems to have been a one off. And once people saw that there was no consequences for not wearing a mask the usage kept dropping. Last time I checked I could only see about one in five with a mask and too often the mask is under the chin.
As Covid-19 numbers are still relatively low in Zambia I don’t think most people take it seriously enough, some even think it’s not here at all, or that it is already over. Unfortunately that is wishful thinking. We can only get through this with a community approach, wear your mask to protect those around you and I will wear my mask to protect you!