With masks now mandatory upon leaving the house, parents in Qatar have been asking whether children are exempt from this rule, especially children under the age of 2 due to the risk of suffocation.
Last May 14, the Cabinet has decided effective May 17, 2020, all are required to wear a mask outside of their residence except in the case when a person is alone while driving a vehicle. In case of non-compliance, penalties stipulated are a fine not exceeding QR 200,000, imprisonment for a period not exceeding three years, or one of these two penalties. This decision is the latest preventive measure that Qatar has implemented to control the spread of COVID-19 in the country.
However, there is currently no specific guidance whether this includes children under the age of two. In this regard, we reached out to the Ministry of Public Health and Hamad Medical Corporation and are still awaiting their answer. We also called the coronavirus hotline 16000 to inquire about the matter.
They have reiterated that currently there is no official word yet on the matter from the Ministry but they have already raised this issue and awaiting a response. The medical team that we talked to on the hotline advised that children, especially the younger ones, refrain as much as possible from going outside especially in crowded spaces. If, however, that it is really necessary that they have to go out, children above 2 yrs are to wear a mask and practice the necessary precautions. As for kids younger than 2 yrs, the medical personnel does not advise that the baby wear a mask but rather the people who will be in contact should be the ones taking precautions. For example, if going to the doctor for a check-up, the parents, doctor, nurses, etc. should be taking the necessary precautions.
Parents should also minimize the amount of time that the young ones spend outdoors and not leave kids unattended.
It should be noted that masks do not offer absolute guaranteed protection but it is an important tool that must be used in combination with standard infection prevention measures, including practicing physical distancing, avoiding touching the face, and washing or sanitizing hands on a regular basis, according to the Ministry of Public Health. In the last press conference held by the Ministry, Dr. Abdullatif Al Khal explained that countries who have enforced the use of masks in public managed the spread of the virus better than the countries that did not.
Another thing to remember is that there are people who are asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic that can spread the virus unknowingly.
According to the US CDC, children 2 years and older should wear a cloth mask when in public places where social distancing is difficult to practice. Meanwhile, it has warned against putting face covering on children under 2 years of age due to the risk of suffocation. The CDC added that "A cloth face covering is not intended to protect the wearer, but may prevent the spread of the virus from the wearer to others. This would be especially important in the event that someone is infected but does not have symptoms."
We have also reached out to the Ministry of Public Health and Hamad Medical Corporation but have yet to receive an answer as of the time this post is published. We will be updating this post as soon as we get updated information from the authorities.
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