'I feel naked without a mask, it will take some getting used to': Shoppers get use to face time

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 Some shoppers in Randburg Square, Gauteng, said they felt free and comfortable, as the walked around without a face mask in and out of stores.
Some shoppers in Randburg Square, Gauteng, said they felt free and comfortable, as the walked around without a face mask in and out of stores.
Zandile Khumalo
  • On the first day of the no-mask policy, some shoppers in Randburg Square, Gauteng, said they felt free and comfortable.
  • This after Health Minister Joe Phaahla removed all legal obligations to wear a face mask in the country. 
  • Some shoppers continued to wear masks as they felt it was much safer. 

Shoppers at Randburg Square on Thursday had mixed feelings about the decision to scrap the wearing of masks, with some relishing being free from its constraints, while others were more cautious.

Despite the gloomy weather that hit Johannesburg, a sense of excitement could be detected from some shoppers who confidently strutted down the mall's walkway with huge smiles as they greeted people from afar.

On Wednesday, Health Minister Joe Phaahla released a notice that immediately removed any legal obligation to wear a face mask in the country. 

This meant the wearing of masks would no longer be required in indoor spaces, including shopping malls and public transport.

READ | Covid-19: Mask rule may be gone, but Phaahla advises people to remain cautious

Nhlanhla Nqube, who was out running errands, looked relaxed as he walked outside with his face mask in hand.

He said: "I'm going to err on the side of caution and wear it, but as long as I'm outside, I'm certainly not going to wear it.

"I am comfortable and I'm free."

He added: 

But of course this is a personal choice. I'm just saying, instead of lowering your mask so that someone can hear you speak you can easily just remove it and that's great.

Walking into the mall, it was clear some were hesitant to walk without masks while others did not give it a second thought. 

A security guard at Mr Price greeted News24 with a huge smile and reached out to offer a sanitiser in a bottle, saying: "I am mask free.

"I feel so comfortable and I am not the only one. Another woman entered the store dancing in front of me celebrating that she does not have to wear a mask."

She added:  

I am not gonna lie, I feel naked but why does it matter? I feel free and comfortable.

Another store employee expressed the same sentiment.

"I feel so free; it's been so long being compelled to wear masks. I have to admit, it feels like I'm naked, I kept touching my mouth wondering what is missing, but I will get used to it.

"At least now I can catch up on things I've missed doing, like putting on make-up and lipstick," she said. 

A man, who chose to remain anonymous, said he felt safer being able to see people without their masks. 

READ | No more masks: Health Minister Joe Phaahla recommends scrapping Covid-19 regulations as SA exits 5th wave

"I mean, when people wore masks, it was easy for them to rob you because you couldn't tell who was who, now that you don't have to wear a mask, I can see your entire face and I know who I'm dealing with."

He added jokingly:

What's even great is that I can show off my face and people can see me. It's starting to feel like those who are wearing their masks aren't really confident about themselves.

Maria Mabuso, who was dressed warmly and wore a blue surgical mask, expressed dissatisfaction with the new decision.

"They said Covid is not over, we are still being forced to take our booster shot, how is it that now all of a sudden we can walk around mask free? It just does not make sense.

"It's not right, it doesn't even sit well with me seeing people without masks inside the taxi but what can I say if the driver himself is not wearing it," she said.

Mabuso is terrified at the prospect of Covid-19 returning, and stated she would continue to wear a mask for as long as she could.

Given the cold weather, a Truworths employee believed it was not yet appropriate to walk around without a mask.

"It's winter, it's cold and people get sick easily. 

"I just don't feel comfortable not wearing my mask because in some way it has protected me from the sickness.

"So, I will still wear it to protect myself," said the employee.

Zanele Radebe, who was carrying shopping bags and wearing a mask, said she was aware of the decision to not wear masks.

She added she still believed they were necessary "because a lot of people are sick and it will be the reason why cases will rise and more people will become ill".

An employee at Shoprite said he felt the government was toying with people and its decisions did not make sense.

He added last winter, South Africans were advised to wear masks because Covid-19 could easily spread, but now that it was winter and extremely cold, it was announced that masks were no longer necessary.

The employee said despite how irritating a face mask was, he would continue to wear it until summer.


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