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The use of face coverings and masks has been one of the most visible and contentious interventions for the prevention of SARS-CoV-2 transmission during the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet to date, there have been few high-quality studies published evaluating their real-world effectiveness. This may help to explain the significant variation in their application to children and young people, including in educational settings.
Northern European countries such as Sweden and Norway have not advised or mandated them at all. The UK and Denmark only required them for children aged 12 years and older for limited periods. In contrast, other Western European countries such as Spain, France, Germany and Italy mandated them for children aged 5 and over and in North America, children as young as 2 years old have been required to wear facemasks in educational and childcare settings, with this requirement at times outlasting their requirement in adults.1 Notably, the WHO and UNICEF advises that children aged 5 years and under should not wear masks routinely. They also recommend that children between the ages of 6 and 11 wear masks only under specific indoor circumstances where SARS-CoV-2 is spreading. Among children aged 12 and older, mask use is recommended to be the same as for adults.2
Even among adult populations, there remains much controversy over the utility and effect size of different types of masks in …
Contributors APSM and RCH both conceived and drafted the manuscript together and approved the final version.
Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.
Competing interests None declared.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.