Some Juba-based boda-boda riders say they are being teased and avoided by some members of the public for wearing facemasks amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Some passengers, they told Eye Radio, questioned them when they put on masks, while others refused to be carried by riders with masks.
But a doctor at the Public Health Laboratory says these actions are contrary to the directives issued to control the spread of the coronavirus.
Mathew James, a boda-boda rider who resides in Gudele area says he no longer wears face masks because of the negative perceptions towards them.
“I only wear glasses to cover my eyes from the dust, but do not wear facemasks. If I wear a mask, some people say insult me. They consider me a criminals. So, I don’t wear it because these words taint my image,” James, 26, told Eye Radio on Thursday.
However, the World Health Organization says masks are recommended as a simple barrier to help prevent respiratory droplets from travelling into the air and onto other people when the person wearing the mask coughs, sneezes, talks, or raises their voice.
This is mainly to control the spread of the coronavirus.
But medical experts said South Sudanese do not observe the public health directives due to either negligence or denial that the disease exists.
The government too has not enforced the public health directives.
Samuel Maring, another boda-boda rider, says he has been told severally by passengers not to wear the mask.
He stated that he used to wear face masks, but the intimidation has discouraged him from wearing any despite its benefits.
He stressed: “Whenever I put on the face mask, some people utter negative words against me, saying ‘you’re a thief or a villager’.”
Dr Angelo Goup, chief operations manager at the Public Health Laboratory, denounced such perceptions on masks by members of the public.
He urged everyone to desist from circulating misinformation regarding the virus.
“Do not intimidate people whenever they wear facemasks. Don’t tell someone who wear facemask they have corona because it will discourage people from wearing it,” he warned.
Dr Guop emphasized that the mask is mandatory, especially for boda-boda riders to protect their passengers from contracting the coronavirus.
Early this week, the ministry of health warned against a second wave of the pandemic after more than forty cases were recorded in a span of one week.
It blamed the increase on the reluctance of the public in following the health guidelines.
Dr Guop warned that if the cases continue to rise, the government may reimpose the lockdown.
“Lockdown is not good because it stops a lot of activtities, but if people do not listen, it will be declared again,” Dr Guop added.
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