HIQA advises guidance on children wearing face masks needs to be agile

Date of publication:

The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) has today published its advice to the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) on reducing the minimum age of mask wearing.

HIQA’s advice was informed by the latest international practice as well as input from its COVID-19 Expert Advisory Group.

Measures previously employed in schools have successfully mitigated the spread of SARS-CoV-2. However, there is growing uncertainty regarding the impact of the increased transmissibility of the B.1.1.7 variant and whether existing measures will be sufficient.

HIQA has found that the evidence points towards face mask use in the community reducing transmission of SARS-CoV-2. However, in young children, the benefit of face mask use is likely small and may be affected by their reduced ability to comply with face mask wearing. Any decision to require or recommend face mask use in children must be balanced against perceived disadvantages associated with their use, for example, potential effects on communication.

Dr Máirín Ryan, HIQA’s Deputy CEO and Director of Health Technology Assessment, said: “It is important that schools remain open to support children’s educational, social, and emotional development. The best way to ensure that schools remain a low-risk environment is by the continued use of a combination of public health measures, such as physical distancing, hand hygiene, cough etiquette, increased ventilation and by not attending when you have symptoms of COVID-19.”

Dr Ryan continued: “These measures should not be limited to the classroom; high levels of adherence are necessary when students are moving between classrooms, when on school grounds and when travelling to and from school. We recommended that a clear communications strategy on methods to reduce transmission be deployed to help students, families and teachers stay safe.”

HIQA’s COVID-19 Expert Advisory Group has therefore advised no change to the current minimum age. This advice will be updated and reviewed as new evidence becomes available.

You can find this document at the link at the top of the page.

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Further information:
Marty Whelan, Head of Communications & Stakeholder Engagement
01 814 7480/085 805 5202, mwhelan@hiqa.ie

Notes to Editor:

 

  • HIQA has today published the following document to inform NPHET’s response to COVID-19:
    • Advice to the National Public Health Emergency Team: Reduction of the minimum age for the application of mask wearing requirements and recommendations
  • NPHET asked HIQA to provide advice on the following policy question:
    • "Should the minimum age for the application of mask wearing requirements and recommendations be reduced?"
  • Current guidance states that children over the age of 13 years, and those in secondary school, should follow adult guidance for face mask usage. Younger children can choose to wear a mask or be requested to do so by a healthcare professional.
  • Information and guidance on mask usage in Ireland can be found here.
  • HIQA provides evidence-based advice to NPHET to inform public health policy, advice and practice in the context of COVID-19. HIQA’s advice is informed by research evidence developed by HIQA’s COVID-19 Evidence Synthesis Team.
  • This advice to NPHET is developed with expert input from HIQA’s COVID-19 Expert Advisory Group. HIQA’s COVID-19 Expert Advisory Group is a multidisciplinary group, comprising nominated representatives from the relevant public health and clinical specialties, methodology experts, and public representation.
  • The topics HIQA researches are outlined and prioritised by NPHET to ensure rapid access to the best available evidence relevant to the SARS-CoV-2 outbreak.