COVID-19: Parents who plan to continue masking up their children under 6

Wong Casandra
·Senior Reporter
·4-min read
Children wearing protective face masks sanitise their hands as they attend preschool classes at St James' Church Kindergarten as schools reopen amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Singapore June 2, 2020.  REUTERS/Edgar Su
Children wearing protective face masks as they attend preschool classes in Singapore on 2 June, 2020. (PHOTO: Reuters)

SINGAPORE — Kelly Tan is aware that her two daughters aged two and four will soon be exempted from wearing masks in public, but the self-employed mother wants to ensure that the girls continue to be masked up before they step out of their house.

On Wednesday (23 September), the Singapore authorities said they will raise the legal age for children to wear masks in public – part of COVID-19 preventive measures here – from two to six years old and above.

“It is safer for everybody, be it them catching any viruses from others or them spreading it. It may not be a 100 per cent foolproof method but at least some precautionary measures are taken which reduce the risk,” Tan said.

The 38-year-old mother’s views were echoed by other parents that Yahoo New Singapore spoke to.

The change in policy by the Ministry of Health (MOH) comes after the World Health Organisation (WHO) and United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (Unicef) recently issued their guidance that children below the age of six may not have the coordination necessary for the proper use of masks.

Therefore, consistent adult supervision is recommended to ensure the appropriate and safe use of masks by these young children, the global organisations advised.

Previously, only children below two years old need not wear face masks in public. However, the authorities said they will continue to strongly encourage young children to wear a mask or a face shield, especially if they are in a group setting, such as in a preschool, or when they are in social activities interacting with other kids.

Parents said they will continue to take extra precautions and closely supervise their young children when they are wearing masks or face shields.

To ensure the fit is correct, Tan said she and her husband constantly check on the masks worn by their daughters and make adjustments if necessary. When their masks become damp from prolonged usage, they would be replaced with new ones immediately, she added.

Ng Pei Ru, a mother of a girl and a boy, said wearing masks is not just about protecting children from COVID-19.

The “good habit” practised by her daughter, who is turning four next month, can also help prevent other viruses, such as those causing the cold and hand, foot, and mouth disease, from spreading in a preschool.

A mask is particularly useful when it is tough to ensure that young children keep to a safe distance from one another, the 33-year-old public relations account director said.

“I will ensure that she also doesn't wear it for too long a period and an adult – either parents or teachers – is always around her when she is wearing it,” she added.

As for her son, who is turning two in November, he is not as receptive to wearing masks due to his young age, Ng said. Instead, she would continue to encourage him to put on a face shield as it is more comfortable for him.

“He still pulls (the mask) off as he doesn't quite understand. However, I will want to at least get him to put on a face shield.”

Despite the revised guidelines, Tan and Ng said they would only allow their children to take their masks off outdoors when they are in less crowded locations.

Their children have gotten used to wearing masks after using them for a number of months and seeing adults, as well as their peers, masked up.

“We also made it (wearing of masks) a rule in order for them to be able to step out of the house,” said Tan.

Ng noted that her daughter reminds her and her husband to put their masks back on after a meal outdoors and before the family leaves their car.

Adeline Ang, 44, who has two daughters aged four and nine, said mask-wearing is a personal hygiene guideline for her children and she wants them to observe it consistently.

“Otherwise, it might also (cause) conflict when the older one sees the younger one not wearing and decides not to wear,” she said.

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