As millions of children around the world are going back to school, the World Health Organization (WHO) says those aged 6 to 12 should wear masks to fight the spread of coronavirus. But children younger than 6 should not wear them.
The WHO announced its guidelines this week following widespread belief that younger children are less likely to get infected compared to adults.
The health organization says the decision to use masks for children between 6 to 12 should be based on the following conditions:
- A child’s environment. Is there widespread transmission in the area where the child lives? Does the child have contact with high-risk groups -- such as elderly adults or those with underlying health conditions?
- A child’s ability to safely and correctly use a mask. Are adults able to help put on, take off, and safely wear masks?
- A child’s access to masks. Are they able to wash them? Can they get new ones from home, the school, or childcare facility?
- The effects of mask-wearing on a child’s learning, disabilities, or underlying diseases. In these cases, the decision for a child to wear a mask should be made with teachers, parents, caregivers, and/or healthcare professionals.
For those 12 and older, the WHO says they should wear masks just like adults. This is especially important in cases where physical distancing cannot be guaranteed and in areas of high transmission.
The WHO advises children to not wear masks when playing sports or doing physical activities, such as running, jumping, or playing on the playground. Wearing a mask during physical activity may make breathing difficult.
However, when organizing these activities for children, it is important to follow other public health measures: maintain at least a 1-meter distance from others, limit the number of children playing together, and provide access to hand-washing areas and supplies.
The guidelines come after more than 23 million people have been infected with COVID-19 along with 810,000 deaths so far. Those are the numbers reported by Johns Hopkins University. But experts say the real numbers are even higher.
Access to education
The WHO and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) also note that no child should be denied access to an education if a mask is unavailable.
Over the weekend, British medical officials have said, “Very few, if any, children or teenagers will come to long-term harm from COVID-19 due solely to attending school.’’
Compare this, they add, to the long-term harm many children and young people may experience from not attending school.
I’m Anna Matteo.
Anna Matteo adapted this story for Learning English with reporting from the Associated Press and VOA. Hai Do was the editor.
Words in This Story
mask – n. a covering used to protect your face or cover your mouth
underlying – adj. used to identify the idea, cause, problem, etc., that forms the basis of something
transmission – n. the act or process by which something is spread or passed from one person or thing to another
teenager – n. a person between 13 and 19 years old
solely – adv. only or just