South Africa: The Great Protection Debate - Policy Shifts Towards Masks in SA and Elsewhere

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Health Minister Zweli Mkhize has urged the public to wear masks to protect themselves and others from coronavirus infection. The Western Cape Department of Health says it's both unnecessary and potentially risky. Now Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula has ordered taxis to supply passengers with medical-grade masks - all while the great mask debate continues to rage globally, along with a shortage of masks.

Should ordinary members of the public - not healthcare workers - wear masks during the Covid-19 pandemic?

It's a simple question, but one without a simple answer.

As of 1 April, the South African government's answer seems to be: yes. When Daily Maverick contacted the Department of Health to ask for clarity on the official stance on mask-wearing, we were directed to Health Minister Zweli Mkhize's public comments on the matter this week.

Mkhize said: "There is no question that the use of masks is one of the best ways of preventing the spread of infection. We recommend them, particularly where people have any cough or any symptoms or in a situation where social distancing is a bit difficult."

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - MARCH 20: A general view of people wearing masks amid the coronavirus pandemic in...

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