PHILIPSBURG–Concerned medical professionals say the use of masks should not be mandatory in schools for children less than twelve years old.
According to a press statement on Tuesday, this is based on the government’s guideline that children have to wear masks while at school and in the classroom at all times. In addition to this, it said that students will be divided into groups – half will attend classes at their school, and half will have to follow lessons online.
“We believe that these measures will do more harm than good to the health of our children,” according to the group of medical professionals. “As of this moment, all the new evidence-based science shows that mask usage on children under the age of 12 has no benefit to ‘flattening the curve’.”
The group of professionals, referring to the World Health Organization (WHO), said children ages five years and under should not wear masks and children ages 6-11 years should only wear masks based on certain considerations. This, they said, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is to be decided on in consultation with the child’s teacher and medical providers.
“Some of these considerations based on the ‘do no harm’ approach are childhood developmental milestones (harmful to their psychological development), compliance challenges and anatomy required to use a mask properly. Based on this, and in our medical opinion, mask-usage should not be mandatory and is not effective for children under 12,” said the group of medical professionals.
The group stated that besides education, schools provide important services such as meals, counselling, physical activity, a safe environment, and more. They noted that not being able to attend school, even on an alternate schedule, is harmful to children. This, they said, can lead to interrupted and delayed learning, especially for those who do not have the technical or parental support to follow classes.
There are also negative (neurological) consequences of too much screen-time. Young children do not have the attention span to follow online classes productively.
Poor nutrition is a factor, as many children rely on free or discounted meals provided at schools for food and healthy nutrition.
Also noted was the lack of physical activity, as school is often one of the places children get to play, run and participate in sport activities. “Both nutrition and physical activity are critical to a strong immune system,” they added.
Furthermore, the lack of social interaction was listed, as schools are the central place where children can engage in social activity and human interaction. When this is missing, children miss out on social contact that is essential to learning and development.
And lastly, they noted the increase in neglect and abuse, as oftentimes schools provide a safe environment for children. Teachers are often the first to recognise neglect or abuse and take steps to help the child(ren) involved.
“We also understand that teachers want to feel and be safe. However, we cannot imagine that the workload on teachers will be more manageable with a 50/50 at-class and at-home learning approach. On the contrary, this is likely to lead to increased confusion and stress for teachers (and parents).
“Based on these facts, we want to request that the Ministries of Public Health, Social Development and Labor VSA and Education, Culture, Youth and Sport (ECYS), both reconsider these rules. Real science, medical statistics and the overall wellbeing of our children need to be taken into consideration.
“Last weekend it was World Children’s Rights Day. Let’s make sure we are complying with those rights of our children when deciding on old and new COVID-19 regulations,” according to the statement.