The matter of masks
Beating Covid requires behavioural change. But that’s not going to come from coercion; the government needs to inspire compliance through grassroots organisation
President Cyril Ramaphosa likes to remind us that Covid-19 is caused by a virus, but spread by human contact and behaviour. It is, indeed, important to acknowledge that the spread of the disease will be determined by the choices we make and how we behave.
But it is troubling how often the government has relied on fear, fines and brute force to force behavioural change. For example, hundreds of thousands of arrests were made in an attempt to enforce social distancing and stay-at-home policies. It is easy to interpret this as both a sad reflection of our broken society and of our lack of trust in the government. But it should be acknowledged that, at least in the initial phases of the pandemic, there was substantial urgency and peril, and it was understandable that the government resorted to command-and-control strategies and high-stakes penalties...