Last updated on Feb 2nd, 2021 at 11:22 am
South African parents have been left frustrated and uncertain this weekend when new rules for childcare centres were published by social development minister Lindiwe Zulu late on Friday.
The new rules now state that children between the ages of 2 and 5 years must be encouraged to wear a face mask (taking into account the child’s age and developmental abilities). These rules are specific to early childhood development (ECD) centres and after-school centres that fall within the regulatory jurisdiction of the department of social development.
These new rules, however, contradict guidelines released by the World Health Organization (WHO) on 21 August stating that kids under 5 shouldn’t have to wear a mask unless there’s an adult nearby who can make sure they wear their mask properly the whole time.
The only time when the WHO recommends young children under the age of 5 should wear a mask is in certain settings or in cases of specific needs, such as when they’re physically close to someone who is ill. “In these circumstances, if the child wears a mask, a parent or other guardian should be within direct line of sight to supervise the safe use of the mask.”
This advice, they say, is based on the safety and overall interest of the child and the capacity to appropriately use a mask with minimal assistance.
No masks for kids under 2
The new guidelines published by social development minister still state that kids under 24 months shouldn’t be required to wear a face mask due to the associated risks.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Academy of Paediatrics (AAP) don’t recommend face masks for children under the age of 2 because it puts them at risk of suffocation.
Babies’ airways and their lung capacities are smaller than grown ups’, and they may struggle to effectively breathe against a mask. They’re also not able to remove the mask if they start feeling distressed. Another concern is that carbon dioxide can get trapped between the mask and baby’s face, and that this can actually suppress their breathing.
If your baby’s face is covered you are not able to see if your baby is busy regurgitating milk or is choking. This puts baby at a real risk.