Goans want cops to act tough against face mask rule violators

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Panaji: Goa police have since the last year booked over 66,000 cases against people for not wearing a face mask in public. The police say that even though the COVID-19 guideline on wearing of face mask is being enforced, the public at large, however, feels that there is a need for stricter enforcement of the government’s direction.

Apart from police, the government has given powers also to panchayat secretaries and municipalities to enforce the guideline. The fine amount for not wearing a face mask in public has been increased from Rs 100 to Rs 200 from November 23 last year.

According to a police officer, “There is a casual attitude among people including tourists. All are aware of the importance of wearing a face mask but when it comes to wearing it, there is lesser compliance.”

It is widely seen that many people carry a face mask but it is mostly tucked on the chin or hanging around the neck. According to another police officer, some people cite reasons such as breathlessness or feeling uncomfortable while others provide weird explanations like they had removed the face mask to click a picture and forgot to wear it again. “However, despite such reasons to avoid getting challaned, when caught without a face mask, the rule violators are not excused,” said a police officer.

The general public feels that the enforcement has to be stricter, as a number of tourists as well as locals can be seen moving in public without a face mask. “Mere presence of a policeman in uniform is enough to make a person wear a face mask. People very well know that they will be fined for not wearing a face mask in public,” said a citizen.

The police in North Goa have booked over 29,000 cases, while the South Goa police have penalised over 37,000 persons for not wearing a face mask in public places.

Police said that they have been conducting awareness drives pertaining to wearing of face mask and social distancing measures, especially in tourist areas. During the festive season of Christmas too, police carried out such drives and even distributed face masks to people, mostly tourists, who were found without one. “They were not fined, but given a face mask with a request to follow the COVID-19 guidelines,” a police officer said.

On November 23 last year, the state government had increased the penalty amount for not wearing a face mask in public places from Rs 100 to Rs 200. Chief Minister Pramod Sawant had directed the concerned agencies to strictly implement the rule.