• A group of petrol stations has requested that customers at forecourt shops wear masks.
  • Those who don't have masks may have to do their purchases at a cashier's window. 
  • Government has also advised South Africans to start wearing cloth marks.
  • For more stories, go to Business Insider's home page.

The South African Petroleum Retailers Association (SAPRA), which represents 750 fuel stations, has requested that all customers wear masks when they enter convenience stores.

This follows government advice that South Africans should start wearing cloth masks to help limit the spread of Covid-19.

"Wearing masks is important. We want to recommend widespread use of masks,” health minister Zweli Mkhize said last week.  “We are recommending that people use cloth masks and just make sure there's a three-layer kind of thing," he said during a briefing on Friday.

SAPRA director Vishal Premlall said in a statement on Wednesday that the masks could help protect customers as well as workers at petrol stations. "As essential workers, employees at petrol stations don’t have the option of staying home. Instead, they risk their health every day, not only on public transport to reach the workplace, but also serving hundreds of customers who may or may not be infected.

"That’s why our request to wear masks is a serious one.”

READ | Govt wants you to wear a cloth face mask - here's how to make one at home

“While we cannot enforce this as we know some customers don’t have the materials to make their own masks or cannot afford to purchase one, we have made it possible for customers to purchase the goods they require without entering the forecourt shop by ordering through the cashier’s window,” said Premlall.

“The coronavirus crisis has brought into sharp focus the need for personal accountability and around the world there is a move towards more responsible caring. Wearing a mask is part of this. It’s not merely about making sure that you don’t contract the virus; it’s also taking a proactive step to prevent spreading it if you don’t know that you’ve been infected,” he says.

Homemade masks offer much less protection compared to surgical masks and N95 respirators. But they are better than nothing, most medical professionals say. Mkhize asked South Africans to wear cloth masks to preserve medical masks for healthcare workers.

2013 study looked at the ability of homemade masks made from cotton t-shirt material to prevent the spread of influenza. The researchers found that the cotton masks were one-third as effective as surgical masks, but that even the homemade masks "significantly reduced the number of microorganisms expelled by volunteers". 

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