“It takes getting used to but once you have you can stay with it for the whole day”. These are the words of a jovial Anita Wavinya an M-Pesa attendant on Mfangano Street. From her street facing stall, Wavinya attends to over 150 customers daily where she has to contend with the risks of Covid-19 and the dust constantly blowing into her business. With her eyes peering between her mask and her hat, she laughs as she jokes about this being the era of people with beautiful eyes and or big foreheads as the masks have hidden all the beautiful smiles. Since Covid-19 started, Wavinya who also sales lip stick and make up has seen that side of business go down, however she is still grateful that she can attract customers with her other varied merchandise. Shifting from her giggles, she says the masks have also reduced her regular chest infections from the constant dust and this is what made her believe that it can also keep her safe from Covid-19.
Concerned for others, she gets annoyed at all the people still ignoring the protocols as communicated by government. “Every day I see thousands of people putting their fate and that of others at risk by not wearing their masks correctly; some confessing to wear out of fear of being arrested not out of fear of Covid-19.” This don’t care attitude she says has cost many lives and she hopes the government can be stricter in enforcing these basic laws that we may win this war and resume our normal lives.
Armed with a thermal gun and sanitizer, Abraham Kyalo is the last line of defense for Umoinner Sacco before any passengers board their vehicles in the CBD. He says over the last five months, sentiments have changed from fear to fatigue and now acceptance. For Kyalo, the risk of infection in public transport and the threat to their jobs was serious enough to warrant the Sacco to enforce mandatory hand sanitization and wearing of masks before each trip. “We had been lax for quite a while, but now we strictly enforce and have stickers from the Sacco in every vehicle communicating masks are mandatory.”
In Mukuru Kayaba, the story is different; wearing masks seems optional as many residents are looking at masks from an affordability perspective. Kendi who sells second hand weaves says the difference between a meal and sleeping hungry may be Ksh. 20 and so people in this community living hand to mouth have very tough decisions to make regarding masks. She added were it not for fear of arrests, fewer people would be wearing masks, however thank to the local tailors, re-washable masks that come at a one off costs making this perceived luxury affordable and available.
In Lugari, a group of students showing up for an entrepreneurship training giggle as they are given masks; they find it weird that in this isolated corner they are required to take precaution. “This thing is not here, I don’t know why they are making us wear the mask” said Isaack Were.
For Irene Cheptoo in village market, her face mask has to be functional and meet the aesthetic needs. Constantly checking herself out and posting her pictures on social media, Irene says the mask has become an extension of our looks and it now represents part of our attire. “Funky designs are now available and I wouldn’t be caught with the kitenge design masks; I mean what will my friends say?” she added.
From the above conversations, the narrative on the importance of wearing a mask and how to wear it right has largely been heard, challenge is getting everyone to comply and wear their masks right. To this end the NBCC has launched the #NBCCMaskChallenge on social media to encourage everyone to wear a mask and wear it right as they adhere to proper wearing and disposal protocols.
NBCC Chair Dr. Myriam Sidibe noted it’s not enough to own a mask, we must ensure it is clean, worn correctly when in public and disposed off correctly to help keep yourself and others safe. She added, “so far the curve is flattening but we cannot lower our guard by ignoring the basics”.
#NBCCMaskChallenge , #BizFightsCorona. #KomeshaCorona.