… women traders generally more compliant
“The danger is gone,” “no money to buy” and “mask is in my hand bag” are some of the main reasons influencing informal traders’ decisions not to wear masks in public. While the wearing of face masks remain a mandatory requirement in fighting the spread of SAR-COV-2 and COVID-19, informal traders on the streets in parts of Accra have become less inclined to adhere to the WHO safety protocols.
A recent purposive study between September 2020 and end December 2020 involving 2450 informal traders, hawkers and vendors in and around the centre of Accra, investigated the use of face masks among male and female traders at amongst others, Oxford Street-Osu, areas around the Accra and Palace malls and nearby streets, Spintex road, the following intersections: Olusegun Obasanjo-Kanda highway Blohum street-Olusungun Obasunjo highway, Osu-Badu Avenue-George Bush highway, Olusegun Obasanjo-Liberation road, Stanbic Heights-Liberation road, Kofi Annan street, 37 Bus Station etc
The population sample included 58% females and 42% males.
The action based mini research highlighted a growing trend of traders operating in public without wearing a face protection mask.
39% of the males observed and interacted with over the period generally wore their masks whilst 61% mostly did not. Of these, approximately 31% had masks in their pockets or on their persons. The remaining 30% did not have a face mask with them.
The top four excuses male vendors made for not wearing a face mask included:
- “No money to buy”
- “GOD will provide protection”
- “Forgot at home” and
- “disease is gone
Other reasons given for not wearing masks were also provided. Some vendors indicated that they could not breath. Others explained that it was a rich man’s disease plus it was also too hot to wear a mask .
Male Vendors also explained that they rarely see their leaders wearing masks so don’t think that they should have to either.
In comparison to male informal traders, the study found that only 15% of female traders were not wearing masks. 58% of female traders had masks on and 27% had it in their handbags.
Reasons provided by female traders for not wearing a mask were similar to those expressed by their male counterparts. The top four reasons that female traders cited for not wearing face masks were:
- “GOD will provide protection”
- “Mask is in my handbag”
- “no money to buy” and
- “no more danger”
The belief among informal traders that the threat of the coronavirus is either gone or there is no more danger is worrying as Ghana starts to experience the growing impact of the evolving second wave.
In a recent statement by President Nana Akufo-Addo, he warned that Ghana’s COVID-19 infection rates were climbing and the new strain(s) of the virus may already be in the country.
While these infection rates have not reached the numbers experienced during the peak of the first wave, the critical, serious and death rates are likely to climb if citizens do not take precautions to significantly reduce transmissions.
One such precaution is the wearing of face masks.
COVID-19 is largely spread through respiratory droplets that are passed from person to person through the mouth or nose. According to the Centre for Disease Control, studies have shown that “masks reduce the spray of droplets when worn over the nose and mouth.”
According to Boateng the unfortunate reality is that the informal traders, their customers and wider society are at serious risk of a potential dramatic increase in SAR-COV-2 infections and the associated COVID-19 disease due to carelessness, complacency and sometimes ignorance.
“What is regrettably happening in this very vibrant segment of society has supply chain implications and major impact on the lives and livelihoods of the entire citizenry. It is for this reason why policy makers and implementors must immediately come up with ways to create awareness plus enforce the law”. Purposive study expert Professor Douglas Boateng emphasized.
To help contain the spread of SAR-COV-2, the wearing masks have been strongly recommended by the World Health Organisation, leading local and global experts including Dr Fauci-USA, Dr Aboagye-Ghana, Professor Vallance-UK, Professor Ampofu-Ghana, etc.
“It is now a widely accepted fact that wearing a face mask can help to reduce the spread of the Coronavirus. The fact that so many informal traders are not wearing masks is concerning. The informal traders’ explanations for ignoring the proven safety protocols are equally disturbing as it is very clear that the danger of COVID-19 is far from over.” Professor Boateng stressed
“As Ghana battles with the second wave of COVID-19, greater emphasis on the importance of the continued use of face masks needs to be made. Citizens need to play their part in protecting themselves and those around them. Simply wearing a face mask while out in public and in closed areas can make a big difference in our battle with the invisible, cunning and very elusive SAR-COV-2,” Boateng concluded.