Coronavirus: UAE parents rush to buy masks for over-2s as new guidance comes in

The recommendation was made at the government's regular briefing on Covid-19

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Children over the age of two should wear masks while out in public, authorities have said.

Dr Omar Al Hammadi, an official spokesperson for the UAE Government, said young people are not immune to the virus.

Although they are less likely to develop serious symptoms, they can carry the virus and pass it on, so precautions must be taken to protect them.

“Wearing masks reduces the chance of transmitting this virus,” said Dr Al Hammadi, speaking at Monday’s government briefing on Covid-19.

It's gone crazy this morning

“Although children are less likely to develop severe symptoms, they can carry the disease and contribute to its transmission to others, so there must be important precautions to stop children from infection,” he added.

“It is recommended for children to wear masks if they are above two years old, but they should not wear it if they have any breathing problem, and cannot remove it themselves.”

The guidance is in line with the United States’ Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, which recommends all people aged two and above wear masks in public.

UAE authorities have previously said masks are only required for children aged six and above.

Abu Dhabi resident Maria Baker, who has three children aged between two and seven, said her youngest refused to wear one when they flew home to New Zealand for a holiday.

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES. 04 AUGUST 2020. UAE Space Molly and Me Kids Clothing, which has sold almost 30,000 face masks since April. Masks being produced at Mixari Ladies Tailoring. (Photo: Antonie Robertson/The National) Journalist: Gillian Duncan. Section: National.
Face masks cost Dh25 each and include three cotton layers, with space for a filter. Antonie Robertson / The National

“Anything around her ears is a nightmare,” said Ms Baker.

“She’s too young to understand and if anything it would be a hassle as she will just fidget and pull it off. I’d rather keep her home than deal with the screaming of a mask.

“Thankfully schools have said FS1 is no masks and a bubble system. I’m much happier about that.”

Marina Innes, who has two and a half year-old triplets, said two of her children are happy to wear them.

One is more reluctant, but will comply, if necessary.

“It normally helps if she has the instruction from a security guard,” she said.

“The first time we went to the mall two of them were happy to, but one was really not keen. They said you can’t come in if you don’t wear one so she listened to them.

“I am one for keeping safe and keeping others safe, so as far as I am concerned my children should be wearing masks.”

Companies said they have been inundated with requests since the updated recommendation was made.

“It’s gone crazy this morning. But we are quite lucky because we are overstocked in that segment,” said Kate Burford, who owns Molly and Me Kids Clothing, which has sold almost 30,000 masks since April. They cost Dh25 each and include three cotton layers, with space for a filter.

She said masks for ages two and up were initially popular with people who were travelling, but fell out of favour when authorities said they were only required for children aged six and above.

The company, which she runs in her spare time with her husband, started making face masks as a hobby for children in the neighbourhood so they could play together.

“Then the families wanted the masks as well, and then their friends wanted masks and then we joined Instagram at the end of April.”

It now employs eight people, all of whom lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic, and supports two tailors who were on the verge of closing their doors before they started making the masks.

“We can make 200 a day and we are selling about 2,000 a week. But we wanted to stock up well for the schools. So we have lots of plain masks ready for the schools,” said Ms Burford.

“And we are looking for new pop-ups, because we have people who want jobs. So we are thinking where can we open so we can make it happen.”