Lockdown Level 3: Your toddler is not required to wear a face mask in public according to regulation

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Children younger than 6 are not expected to wear masks under lockdown Level 3. (JPM/Getty Images)
Children younger than 6 are not expected to wear masks under lockdown Level 3. (JPM/Getty Images)

According to the recently amended Disaster Management Act, parents now have confirmation regarding the "mandatory" age for mask-wearing.  

"The wearing of a face mask is mandatory for every person when in a public place, excluding a child under the age of six years," reads the document published 11 January 2021.

In addition to mask-wearing, the amended document lays out several changes to lockdown under "Adjusted Alert Level 3," from "Places and premises closed to the public" to "Mandatory protocols when in a public place".

Necessary update

The update comes after much debate among parents who just a few weeks ago took to parenting forums to express their confusion regarding the official rules around young children and face masks.

"Does anyone know the exact rules around children under three wearing masks? Asked one mom who shared that her toddler "simply refuses to wear one".

And clearly, the refusal of young children to wear a mask is not unique to SA, as one US mom proved when she shared the now-viral video showing her family being escorted off a plane because her 2-year-old refused to put on a mask. 

Read: 'Do people have to die?': Here's why kids are asking such big questions during the pandemic

In line with international guidelines

The new requirement comes as a considerable adjustment to earlier guidelines set out by the Department of Social Development (DSD) which specified that, in early childhood development centre settings, children younger than two years old were exempt from wearing face masks.

With regards to children aged two to five, the DSD previously asked that this age group "be encouraged to wear a face mask" with consideration granted given their "developmental abilities".

With the mandatory age now at 6, the amendment is closely aligned to the advice by the World Health Organization which recommends mask-wearing start from five years old. 

"Children aged 5 years and under should not be required to wear masks. This is based on the safety and overall interest of the child and the capacity to appropriately use a mask with minimal assistance". 

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