The WHO has issued new face mask guidelines for children
Thousands of children across the UK will either soon be returning to school, or have already gone back.
As a result, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has updated its advice regarding children and face masks.
What does the WHO advise?
WHO guidance now states that children aged between six and 12 should wear face masks to help fight the spread of coronavirus.
Children within this age group should now wear a mask under the same conditions as adults, in particular when they cannot guarantee at least a one metre distance from others, and there is widespread transmission in the area.
Those who are younger than six are not advised to wear face coverings.
The WHO states that the decision for children to wear masks should be based on the following conditions:
Masks should be worn if there is widespread transmission when they live, or if children have contact with high-risk groups, such as elderly adults or those with underlying health conditions.
The child should have the ability to safely and correctly use a face mask, or have an adult with them to help put it on and remove it.
Children should have access to a mask and have the ability to be able to wash it, or get a new one, either from home, school or childcare facility.
Health and well-being
A child should only wear a mask if the effects of wearing it does not pose a hindrance to their learning, disabilities, or underlying diseases. In these cases, the decision to wear a mask should be made with teachers, parents, caregivers, and/or healthcare professionals.
Children do not need to wear masks when playing sports or while undertaking physical activities, including playing in the playground, as this may make breathing difficult.
If a mask cannot be worn, at least a one metre distance should be maintained from others, the number of children playing together should be limited, and there should be access to hand washing areas.
The WHO also notes that no child should be denied access to an education if a mask is unavailable.
What are the current face mask rules in the UK?
In England, face masks will be required to be worn in secondary schools that are within areas under local lockdown restrictions. This only applies when moving around corridors and communal spaces, but does not include classrooms.
This rule will take effect on 1 September and does not apply to primary school pupils.
In Scotland, all pupils aged 12 and over must wear face masks in corridors, communal areas and on school buses as of 31 August.
The guidance will be obligatory in all secondary schools, special schools and grant-aided schools in Scotland, but pupils should not be excluded from school if they do not wish to wear one.
Secondary school pupils will also be required to wear masks in corridors and communal areas in Northern Ireland, while masks must be worn by pupils over the aged of 11 in school communal areas in Wales.
Guidance from the Welsh Government also covers pupils travelling on school transport, as well as college students and staff, but does not recommend their use in classrooms.