World Health Organization: ‘Children over 12 should wear face masks’

Children aged 12 and over should wear face masks, in line with recommended practice for adults in their country or area, the World Health Organization (WHO) has said.

While little is known about how children transmit the virus, says WHO, it points to evidence that teenagers can infect others in the same way as adults.

Children aged five and under should not normally wear masks, it adds, but any decision on whether those aged between six and 11 should wear one should take into account the extent of any interaction between the child and high-risk people, such as the elderly.

More than 800,000 people have now died with coronavirus worldwide, and at least 23 million cases of infection have been registered, according to Johns Hopkins University, with most of them recorded in the US, Brazil and India. But it is thought that the true number is far higher, largely because of insufficient testing and asymptomatic cases.

The numbers have been rising again in countries as diverse as South Korea, EU states and Lebanon. WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of WHO, says he hopes the pandemic will be over in two years.

The advice published on the WHO website covers three age groups:

  • Children aged 12 and over should wear a mask under the same conditions as adults, in particular when they cannot guarantee a distance of at least one metre from others and there is widespread transmission in the area
  • For children aged between six and 11, the WHO advises taking into account how widespread the transmission of the virus is and whether the child is interacting with high-risk individuals such as the elderly. It also stresses the need for adult supervision to help children use, put on and take off masks safely
  • Children aged five and under should not, under normal circumstances, wear masks.

WHO says: “In areas where there is widespread transmission, all adults under the age of 60 and who are in general good health should wear fabric masks when they cannot guarantee at least a one-metre distance from others. This is particularly important for adults working with children who may have close contact with children and one another.”

Adults aged 60 or over, or those with underlying health conditions, should wear medical masks, it says. The WHO guidance does not specify whether a child over the age of 12 should wear a mask in school, but it may yet become a feature of the classroom as the new academic year begins.

Click here for the latest WHO advice and guidance on coronavirus.

Author: Simon Weedy

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