The World Health Organization (WHO) has clarified its mask-wearing guidance for children for the first time, stating that, in general, children aged five years and under should not be required to wear masks.
However, it says children aged 12 and over should wear masks to help tackle the COVID-19 pandemic under the same conditions as adults, while children between six and 11 should wear them on a risk-based approach.
Children aged 12 and over should particularly wear a mask when a one-metre distance from others cannot be guaranteed and there is widespread transmission in the area, the WHO and the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) said in a document on the WHO website dated August 21.
What should be considered when making children wear masks?
Whether children between six and 11 should wear masks depends on a number of factors, according to the WHO document, including the intensity of transmission in the area, the child’s ability to use the mask, access to masks and adequate adult supervision, the two organisations said.
The potential impact on learning and psycho-social development, and the interactions the child has with people at high risk of developing serious illness, should also play a role.
Children aged five years and under should not be required to wear masks based on the safety and overall interest of the child, the WHO and UNICEF said.
Studies suggest older children potentially play a more active role in transmission of the new coronavirus than younger children, the WHO and UNICEF said, adding more data was needed to better understand the role of children and adolescents in the transmission of the virus, which causes COVID-19.
How WHO’s new guidance on children wearing masks is different
The new guidance from WHO and Unicef is in contrast to that from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which recommends that children aged two years and older should wear a mask in public when they cannot practice social distancing.
It also contrasts with advice given by the UAE government at a media briefing in Abu Dhabi in early August, where Dr Omar Al Hammadi, the official spokesperson for the UAE Government, stated that it is recommended that children wear face masks in public provided that they are more than two years old.
The WHO first advised people to wear masks in public on June 5 to help reduce the spread of the disease, but had previously not issued specific guidance for children. In the absence of previous guidance from WHO, many policy-makers were following the advice from the CDC.
Source: Gulf News
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