Geneva, August 24
Just as thousands and thousands of kids are heading again to highschool, the World Health Organization says these aged 6 to 11 ought to put on masks in some instances to assist combat the unfold of coronavirus.
The suggestions offered Monday comply with the widespread perception that youngsters below 12 are usually not thought-about as more likely to propagate the virus as a lot as adults. Children typically face much less extreme virus signs than adults, with the aged essentially the most susceptible to extreme an infection and demise.
Now WHO says choices about whether or not youngsters aged 6 to 11 ought to put on masks ought to think about elements like whether or not COVID-19 transmission is widespread within the space the place the kid lives; the kid’s skill to securely use a masks; and grownup supervision when taking the masks on or off.
“Luckily, the vast majority of children who are infected with the virus appear to have mild disease or asymptomatic infection, and that’s good news,” mentioned Maria Van Kerkhove, technical chief of the UN well being company’s emergencies programme.
She nonetheless cautioned that some youngsters can develop extreme instances of coronavirus and even die.
The shift comes as confirmed COVID-19 infections worldwide have surpassed 23 million and confirmed deaths have handed 809,000, in response to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. Experts say the tally understates the true toll of the pandemic attributable to restricted testing, missed delicate instances and different elements.
The UN well being company for months trailed many governments in backing the widespread use of masks, some extent not misplaced on critics, who mentioned WHO was too gradual to get on board with the advantages of basic masks use.
WHO had expressed concern that individuals who placed on masks may unwittingly unfold the virus from an unclean hand to their face, and insisted that health-care suppliers wanted masks first amid some shortages.
Since then, researchers have discovered that the virus might be transmitted by aerosols — tiny droplets emitted when folks discuss, chuckle, sing or sneeze — and mask-wearing can minimize down on the quantity of virus that persons are uncovered to.
Some policymakers, together with public transport authorities in Europe and elsewhere, have set the bar for mask-wearing in crowded locations like buses and trains at age 12 — with everybody older required to place them on.
Acknowledging gaps in each analysis and understanding of the virus, WHO mentioned youngsters below age 6 mustn’t put on masks, whereas these 12 to 18 ought to put on them identical to adults ought to — notably in instances the place bodily distancing can’t be ensured and in areas of excessive transmission.
WHO advises a “risk-based approach” for teenagers aged 6 to 11 that balances varied elements.
“Everyone agrees how important it is that schools are operating safely,” Van Kerkhove mentioned. “We’ve outlined how that can be done in terms of physical distancing and hand hygiene stations, respiratory etiquette, the potential use of masks by either the workers or the children themselves.”
WHO mentioned the present proof suggests virus instances reported from youngsters stemmed largely from transmission inside households and that “documented transmission among children and staff within educational settings is limited.”
Parents, well being officers and educators in international locations world wide have been wrestling with the security questions posed by having thousands and thousands of kids return to highschool throughout a pandemic.
Over the weekend, Britain’s high public well being officers issued a joint assertion saying that youngsters have been extra seemingly be harmed by staying away from faculty than from being uncovered to COVID-19.
They mentioned youngsters are much less more likely to catch COVID-19 than adults and have “an exceptionally low risk” of dying from the illness. By distinction, they mentioned research present that not going to highschool limits youngsters’s skill to achieve life and should worsen bodily and psychological well being issues.
“Very few, if any, children or teenagers will come to long-term harm from COVID-19 due solely to attending school,” the medical officers mentioned. ”This needs to be set towards a certainty of long-term hurt to many youngsters and younger folks from not attending faculty.”
The suggestions by WHO on Monday additionally famous lingering uncertainty in regards to the effectiveness of clear face shields, with WHO calling for extra analysis into their use in response to COVID-19. AP