‘Schoolchildren should wear face masks’

  • Nation
  • Saturday, 08 Aug 2020

Vital item: The wearing of face masks in schools is encouraged but not compulsory, but experts are urging authorities to make it mandatory.

PETALING JAYA: All students should wear face masks in schools as it will curb the spread of Covid-19, say health experts.

Malaysian Public Health Physicians’ Association president Datuk Dr Zainal Ariffin Omar said the government should standardise the requirement of wearing face masks.

“All children above two should wear a face mask like adults. This includes schoolchildren.

“It is better for schoolchildren to wear face masks except during physical activity, eating or while in a controlled classroom setting,” he said when contacted.

On Aug 3, Education Minister Dr Mohd Radzi Md Jidin said that no decision had been made on whether to make it mandatory for students to don face masks in schools.

Currently, under the guidelines on the reopening of schools, the wearing of face masks was encouraged but not compulsory.

But since Aug 1, the public must wear face masks on public transport and in crowded places in a mandatory ruling.

Crowded places include markets, houses of worship, school buses and vans, zoos, sports and recreation centres, clinics and hospitals, retail outlets and cinemas.

Dr Zainal said children should wear face masks as studies had shown that they too could be infected with the virus albeit with lesser symptoms and complications as compared to adults.

He said children were not immune to the disease and might become silent spreaders.

National Early Childhood Intervention Council adviser and senior consultant paediatrician Datuk Dr Amar Singh HSS concurred that there was a real risk of transmission from children to adults, especially with schools reopening.

He said a recent study also showed that children under five had 10 to 100 times more SARS-CoV-2 in the upper respiratory tract when compared to adults.

“This suggests that they may be a key in spreading the virus,” he said.

He noted that schools and offices had been omitted from the government’s policy on the mandatory wearing of face masks in crowded places although the World Health Organisation (WHO) had listed schools as a public setting.

“The policy has not been consistent with the latest WHO advice on the use of face masks in the context of Covid-19,” he said.

In an advisory, the WHO said in areas with known or suspected widespread transmission, as well as areas with limited or no capacity to implement containment measures, the people in public settings such as grocery stores, offices, social gatherings and closed settings – including schools and places of worships – are encouraged to use non-medical masks.

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