Parents should not buy face masks for children under three because they can cause choking and suffocation, Public Health England has warned.
The public health body made the announcement on the eve of face coverings becoming mandatory in shops throughout the UK.
It made the move after becoming aware that masks and covering are being sold aimed at youngsters.
Professor Viv Bennett, chief nurse at the agency, said: ‘PHE has been made aware that face coverings for babies and very young children are available for sale in England.
‘Guidance is clear that children under the age of three years should not wear face coverings or masks.
‘These masks should not be used as they are potentially dangerous and can cause choking and suffocation.
‘If you or your child is unwell with the symptoms of Covid-19, then you should get a test and stay at home until you get the result.’
Parents should not buy face masks for children under three because they can cause choking and suffocation, Public Health England has warned (stock picture)
Government advice states that any child who is not able to remove the masks on their own should not be wearing any face covering.
It’s important the masks are not making it difficult for the child to breathe and it is safe for them.
Doctors have previously said that masks make inhaling and exhaling more difficult for children under two-years-old given they have smaller airways, which could lead to suffocation.
The NHS also warns infants could be at risk of becoming tangled, especially if they try to remove a mask, potentially causing serious injury.
Some shops like the Disney Store are selling face masks aiming specifically toward children
It comes nine days after Health Secretary Matt Hancock said on July 14 that wearing a face mask in shops and supermarkets will be compulsory from tomorrow, July 24, with anyone failing to comply facing a fine of up to £100.
Children under 11 are exempt from the rules.
Under new rulings released by the Department of Health and Social Care today, venues such as restaurants, pubs and gyms will be exempt from the rules.
However, there has been confusion as the Government announced that face masks must be worn to pick up a takeaway, but do not need to be worn if a person is sitting inside a restaurant that offers takeaways.
What are the new rules on face masks in England?
You must already wear a face mask on:
- Public transport (since June 15)
You must wear them from tomorrow in:
- All shops
- Coffee shops (if getting takeaway)
- Restaurants (if getting takeaway)
You do not have to wear one in:
- Restaurants (if eating in)
- Open spaces
The DHSC said: ‘It will be compulsory to wear a face covering when buying food and drink to takeaway from cafes and shops.
‘If you are in a premises where you are able to sit down and consume food or drink that you have bought, then you can remove your face covering in order to eat and drink on site.’
Face coverings must be worn in shops, supermarkets, indoor shopping centres and transport hubs – such as train stations and airports.
Matt Hancock said: ‘As we move into the next stage of easing restrictions for the public, it is vital we continue to shop safely so that we can make the most of our fantastic retail industry this summer.
‘Everyone must play their part in fighting this virus by following this new guidance. I also want to thank the British public for all the sacrifices they are making to help keep this country safe.’
As well as shops and supermarkets, face coverings must be worn in banks, building societies and post offices. Wearing a face covering will not be made mandatory in other venues that have measures in place to protect staff and the public from COVID-19. These include:
- Eat-in restaurants and pubs;
- Hairdressers and other treatment salons
- Gyms and leisure centres
- Cinemas, concert halls and theatres;
For transport hubs in England, the requirements mean face coverings must be worn in indoor train stations and terminals, airports, maritime ports, and indoor bus and coach stations or terminals.
Anyone who doesn’t abide by the regulations – and is not exempt under one of the categories set out in the regulations – could face a fine by the police of up to £100, as is currently the case on public transport.
The police have been very clear throughout the pandemic that they will ‘engage, explain, encourage and finally enforce as a last resort’.
Wearing a face covering will not be made mandatory in venues such as:
- Hairdressers and close contact services
- Eat-in Restaurants, cafes and pubs. Face coverings will be required in cafes or take-away restaurants that do not provide table service, other than in designated seating areas.
- Entertainment venues, including cinemas, concert halls and theatres
- Visitor attractions (such as heritage sites or museums)
- Gyms and leisure centres
- Dentists or opticians. But NHS guidance states that face coverings should be worn in hospitals
You do not need to wear a face covering if you have a legitimate reason not to. This includes (but is not limited to):
- Young children under the age of 11 (Public Health England do not recommended face coverings for children under the age of 3 for health and safety reasons)
- Not being able to put on, wear or remove a face covering because of a physical or mental illness or impairment, or disability
- If putting on, wearing or removing a face covering will cause you severe distress
- If you are travelling with or providing assistance to someone who relies on lip reading to communicate
- To avoid harm or injury, or the risk of harm or injury, to yourself or others
- To avoid injury, or to escape a risk of harm, and you do not have a face covering with you
- To eat or drink if reasonably necessary
- In order to take medication
- If a police officer or other official requests you remove your face covering
There are also scenarios when you are permitted to remove a face covering when asked:
- If asked to do so in a bank, building society, or post office for identification
- If asked to do so by shop staff for identification, the purpose of assessing health recommendations, such as a pharmacist, or for identification purposes including when buying age restricted products such as alcohol
- If speaking with people who rely on lip reading, facial expressions and clear sound. Some may ask you, either verbally or in writing, to remove a covering to help with communication
Last week ministers caused chaos with a serious of contradictory statements and actions regarding face coverings.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak and International Trade Secretary Liz Truss, for example, were pictured wearing masks at a Pret a Manger in Westminster – while Michael Gove was photographed in the sandwich shop without one.
Then last Wednesday morning Matt Hancock announced coverings would be compulsory in sandwich shops such as Pret a Manger.
The response sparked anger from Mayor of London Mr Khan, who tweeted: ‘This is frankly ridiculous. The virus doesn’t know if you’re in a take-away or a supermarket.
‘The Government is risking the health of the public to cover the back of a Cabinet Minister. Please wear a face covering in all shops and takeaways.’
Mr Gove finally fell into line by wearing an NHS-branded face covering in Whitehall – having sparked a furore by publicly making clear he did not think they should be required by law, and being spotted in a sandwich shop without one.
Later last Wednesday the Health Secretary was contradicted by Downing Street when the Prime Minister’s spokesman insisted this was not the case.
It was then contradicted by Department of Health officials who confirmed masks would be mandatory from July 24 in line with all other shops.
The next day, Business Secretary Alok Sharma told Sky News masks would not be necessary when buying food to takeaway. ‘It won’t be compulsory but we would certainly encourage it,’ he said.
Further regulations are set to come into force tomorrow and more businesses such as swimming pools, water parks and gyms will reopen.