Children aged 12 and below are allowed to continue wearing face shields, while teens and adults have to wear face masks when they leave home, following a review of an earlier policy in which either option had been allowed.
Only specific groups will be allowed to wear face shields in place of face masks.
This includes teachers, as it might not be practical for them to wear face masks while teaching. Those with medical conditions which prevent them from wearing face masks, such as those with breathing difficulties, will also be exempt.
Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said on Monday (June 1) that the task force combating the Covid-19 outbreak has decided that face shields are not as effective as masks in reducing the risk of virus transmission.
While face shields may be easier for kids to tolerate, they are not as effective as masks, medical experts caution.
“Face shields may reduce the likelihood of large splashes or droplets from coming into contact with the child’s eyes, nose and mouth, but do not offer the same degree of protection as compared with a well-fitted surgical mask,” says Associate Professor Thoon Koh Cheng, head and senior consultant for the infectious disease service in the department of paediatrics at the KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital.
Dr Chan Poh Chong, head and senior consultant of the division of general ambulatory paediatrics and adolescent medicine at the National University Hospital, says that face shields have been recommended as an alternative because masks may be restrictive for younger children.
“Face masks cover the mouth and nose better, but may cause breathing difficulty and irritation on a child’s face and ears. This may cause them to scratch and pull on the masks repeatedly, increasing the risk of infection,” he says.
“If there is a need to go to crowded places like taking public transport, where social distancing may not be easy, a face mask would offer better protection.”
How to encourage kids to keep their masks on
He suggests that parents use age-appropriate language to explain why kids should protect themselves and others from infection, empathise with their difficulties, and practise wearing masks and shields at home before classes resume.
Dr Chan advises buying well-fitting ones that are less likely to cause discomfort, as well as personalising masks and shields to help children “identify the protective coverings as part and parcel of their daily dressing”.
“Despite all these efforts, we cannot expect that very young children will immediately be able to keep their masks and/or shields on all day. It is important to be sensitive to the children’s needs and exercise flexibility while helping them to get used to the coverings,” he says, adding that cultivating the habit will take time.
Veteran early childhood educator Patricia Koh acknowledges parents’ frustrations, but says childcare teachers will be helping their young charges adopt the mask-wearing habit in “creative ways to make it like an adventure”.
Mrs Koh, who is education ambassador of the MapleBear Singapore chain of preschools, encourages parents to think positively as “how we look at a situation will affect our children’s feelings and behaviour”.
That upbeat attitude certainly helped Mr Joshua Nathaniel Norsen, 38, a technical specialist. His daughter, Sarah, attended child care during the circuit breaker as both he and his wife are essential workers.
It took the two-year-old about five school days and a weekend to adapt to a mask-wearing habit, which he shared in a series of videos on social media.
In class, her teachers explained the importance of masks with engaging activities. At home, Mr Norsen and his wife followed these key pointers: “Be consistent, have lots of patience and use gentle persuasion.”
He says: “During the first couple of days when Sarah was frustrated with her mask and wanted to remove it, I maintained my cool and let her have her mini meltdown. By giving her time and space, she usually recovered within five to 10 minutes. I would then distract her with passing vehicles or tell her make-believe stories.
“I also empathised with her and used visual persuasion by pointing to others and even myself wearing masks to help her calm down.”
He adds: “It wasn’t easy and almost made us go crazy, but it worked. Now Sarah won’t go anywhere without her mask. I encourage every parent who’s still struggling to keep trying. Your little one will eventually wear it with pride.”
Where to buy reusable kids’ face masks
If you’re looking to buy child-size face masks, check out this list of online stores. You can also learn to DIY reusable masks for your family here.
The Singapore-based fashion label founded by two mumpreneurs first made masks to donate to essential workers during the circuit breaker. It started offering adult and kid sizes for sale last month after requests from customers.
Made in Jakarta, its three-ply child mask has a waterproof middle layer and comes in a variety of sizes, colours and prints.
Prices start at $3.50.
Customers can also buy masks under its “2,500 Masks For Everyday Heroes” initiative, where proceeds fund its efforts. The company is also developing hats with face shields.
Go to: Ans.Ein website
Its masks come in various sizes and are made from cotton fabric offcuts from past clothing collections, or cloth from suppliers in Japan and South Korea.
Each mask has two layers and comes with a filter slot. Prices range from $8 to $14 on a pre-order basis. A portion of the proceeds are donated to charities and local seamstresses who sew the masks.
Go to: Chubby Chubby website
Unable to find well-fitting child masks for her three kids, founder Eileen Tay sewed them herself. Requests poured in after she posted photos on social media, and she started pre-orders last month.
Her masks are crafted from her label’s signature Liberty Art Fabrics, which are 100 per cent Egyptian cotton from Europe. There are three sizes for kids, tweens and adults, and a choice of two-ply with a filter compartment, or three-ply with an embedded filter.
For every $22 mask sold, the brand gives a reusable cotton child-size mask to vulnerable families. It has donated more than 2,000 masks so far.
Go to: Elizabeth Little website
Known for its reversible kidswear, Maison Q initially made 50 adult masks as a special order for retailer Motherswork to give to its customers and influencers. After the recipients posted photos on social media, it received requests to make more.
Its three-ply masks for adults and kids have a pocket for a filter and are made from leftover fabric from its collections.
Producing the masks helps its Indonesian artisans to continue working and 20 per cent of the proceeds will go to the Happy Stork programme for teenage mothers.
Kid sizes cost $16, while adult ones are $18.
Go to: Maison Q website
Oh Happy Fry
This online kids’ lifestyle store started selling masks about two weeks ago after its founder, Ms Rae Yun, could not find suitable washable versions for her two children.
Made in South Korea, the masks come in two- and three-ply styles and various designs.
Prices for adult and child masks range from $6.50 to $15.90 each.
It also has hats with detachable shields and mask pouches.
Go to: Oh Happy Fry website
A desire to help migrant workers and an under-utilised factory sparked the idea to produce masks for adults and kids late last month. Its first batch sold out within a weekend.
The masks are made from past season fabric, which is a comfortable interlock knit, and feature its exclusive designs.
Priced at $10 each for adult and child sizes, they are two-ply with space for a filter.
Pre-orders has opened for the second batch and 20 per cent of proceeds will go to The Courage Fund for those affected by Covid-19.
Go to: Sea Apple website
A version of this article first appeared in The Straits Times.
(Photos of masks: Respective brands)
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