COVID-19: Mumbai's many excuses for not masking up

Updated: 29 September, 2020 10:47 IST | Arita Sarkar | Mumbai

'I am just on my way to buy a mask' is city's favourite, according to civic officials who are struggling to enforce habit

People being fined for not wearing masks in G North ward
People being fined for not wearing masks in G North ward

I was just heading to a chemist to buy a mask." This has become the most popular excuse for not wearing a mask. Despite reminders and warnings, many Mumbaikars are still seen without masks and when confronted, either argue or have an excuse ready.

Sridhar Sutar, an employee of the Solid Waste Management (SWM) Department in G South ward, has listened to a variety of excuses. "Some say they forgot it in the car, while others claim to have forgotten it at home. People at Worli Seaface are often seen jogging without a mask, and when fined, they say they were feeling breathless. Ultimately, when we ask them to go to the nearest chemist and buy a mask, they pull one out of their pockets," he said.

Masks in pockets

In the busy areas of H West ward — promenades at Carter Road and Bandstand as well as the Bandra and Khar railway stations — people are often seen either wearing their mask on the chin or have it in their pockets. Narendra Panchal, an SWM department official, said they focus on people in the age group of 20 to 40 years as they are often spotted without a mask.

"The most popular excuses are — they had just taken it off to drink water or they had just finished eating and were going to wash their hands. Some even say that they find it too stuffy to wear it. We try to explain to them the importance of wearing masks amid the pandemic, but many people don't listen," Panchal said.

A man is being fined for not wearing a mask in Mahim on Friday
A man is being fined for not wearing a mask in Mahim on Friday

Elderly more careful

Given the high rate of deaths among senior citizens, most elderly people are careful, said civic officials. However, many youngsters argue when confronted for not wearing a mask, said Sutar. "We distribute masks to those who can't afford one. But many young people refuse to pay the fine and even wear a mask. We then have to call the police, but even that doesn't help make people understand the importance of masks in the fight against COVID-19," he said.

BMC need police help

The penalty as imposed by the BMC is Rs 200, but it could go as high as Rs 1,200 if a police complaint is filed, civic officials said. In Dharavi, police often accompany the inspection team.

They added that despite awareness programmes, they find it difficult to convince the shopkeepers in Dadar and Mahim to wear a mask at all times. Prakash Sable, assistant head supervisor in the SWM department of G North ward, said violators in residential areas say their building is close by and they had just stepped out to buy something.

An inspection team sent by the BMC fines a man caught without a mask in G North ward
An inspection team sent by the BMC fines a man caught without a mask in G North ward

No mask, no entry

"We explain to them that physical distancing is not possible in a small shop, and that they not only have to wear a mask all the time, they also have to ensure their customers wear one as well. Gradually, shops have started putting up posters that state service would not be provided to customers without a mask," he said. Sable said they distributed over 400 masks.

To enforce the compulsory mask rule in an effort to prevent the spread of novel Coronavirus, the BMC has given ward officials a target of fining 1,000 offenders a day.

Also Read: Mumbai: Restaurants ready to serve you the new normal in two weeks!

Rs 52.7 lakh penalty in 5 mths

From April to September 26, the civic body has collected fines to the tune of Rs 52.7 lakh and penalised over 14,000 people. With Rs 6.15 lakh, K West ward has collected the highest amount in fines, while H West ward has collected Rs 2.08 lakh after penalising over 450 violators.

14k
No of people fined in past five months

First Published: 29 September, 2020 07:03 IST

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