must the mask be compulsory from 6 years old?

, published on Monday August 31, 2020 at 11:15 a.m.

Some scientists and doctors argue that the mask should be compulsory from the age of six, a position the government does not share, which has only made it compulsory for teachers and children from sixth grade.

On the eve of the start of the school year, the question of the mask divides. If the French government has decided that the mask should only be compulsory for teachers and students from the sixth grade, which begins at the age of 11, some believe that all children over 6 should wear one.

In a column published Saturday, August 29 in The Parisian, scientists and doctors explain that the health protocol presented by the Minister of Education Jean-Michel Blanquer “does not protect staff, students and their families and is insufficient to slow the current increase in the number of new cases of Covid-19 “.

Children under 11 are as contaminating as adolescents or adults, as recalled by German virologists or the American Academy of Pediatrics which, for its part, encourages the wearing of a mask from 2 years old “, explain the authors of the forum asking to make the mask compulsory from the age of six, as Spain and Italy do so in particular.

Based in particular on the opinions of the High Council for Public Health, the Minister of Education Jean-Michel Blanquer repeated on Sunday in the JDD that in primary school, it was not necessary to wear a mask for children. “We also consult doctors specializing in children. This week again, the French society of pediatrics, in a meeting at the general directorate of health, validated our positions”, explained the minister. However, it is not excluded in the future to extend the obligation to wear a mask to CM1 and CM2 students.

If opinions differ so much on this question, it is because many unknowns remain on the impact of Covid-19 on children. What we know, because all the studies confirm it, is that children rarely get very sick from the coronavirus. “Children are more likely to have a mild or even asymptomatic form” and therefore to escape detection, said a recent report from the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).

On the other hand, we do not know why children are less severely affected. There is also no consensus on the question of the contamination of children: are they less infected? Are they less contagious? Several studies suggest that the virus seems to infect children less, especially under 10 years old. Representative samples of the population were tested in Iceland, Spain, Geneva or Italy, to determine the rate of people infected or having developed antibodies: children were proportionally less affected than adults. “These differences are small and remain to be confirmed,” warns the ECDC, however.

The question of children’s contagiousness is the big unknown and a crucial question at the start of the school year. Some studies have concluded that children have a viral load (i.e., concentration of virus) comparable to that of adults, and are therefore potentially just as contagious. But the viral load is not the only criterion: children may be less contagious because they have fewer symptoms, since it is by coughing or sneezing that an infected person risks transmitting the virus. “When they show symptoms, children shed the same amount of virus as adults and are as contaminants as them. It is not known how asymptomatic children can infect other people,” says the ECDC.

However, studies have shown that children, especially younger ones, rarely infect loved ones. According to these studies, contamination is more from adults to children than the reverse. However, many experts call for a distinction to be made between children and adolescents, whose level of contagiousness seems to be more similar to that of adults.

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