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Even with loose mask mandate, some children are more comfortable masking up

Jul 13, 2023

Some children are more comfortable masking up outside, since they have spent a big chunk of their life in the Covid-19 pandemic. — Freepik

“NO AYAH, please don’t take off my mask,” said Tunku Murshid Mughni, five, to his father as he ate popcorn just before Elemental was about to start. He wore his mask throughout the movie, pulling it down only when he wanted to eat and drink.

“I want to wear it back once I’m done eating, so just leave it looped around my ears,” he says.

Born in 2018, Tunku Murshid was two when Covid-19 struck. He learned early why hand hygiene is important and how mask helps to prevent infection.

His father, Tunku Mohar Mokhtar says his son never has a problem wearing one. “He wears one all the time during kindergarten hours, so he is very much used to it. If he leaves home without one, he would feel uneasy,”

“I think he will continue masking up even after the loosening of masking requirements,” Tunku Mohar says. “The only thing he requests is to use the 4-ply rectangle mask, not the KF94 one since he says he breathes easier with the former,”

Tunku Murshid (right) with his friend Harraz Adha before they watched a movie. — TUNKU MOHAR MOKHTAR

A matter of preference

Mask mandates and guidelines have changed again as Covid-19 infections decline and the disease is very much under control.

Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa announced recently that beginning July 5, wearing a mask is no longer mandatory in public transport.

This is part of the country’s latest relaxation of Covid-19 guidelines in the country, following the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) statement on May 1 that the disease is no longer a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC).

While most adults prefer to go without masks, some choose to continue wearing them. Children, however, seem to be more comfortable masking up.

“I am used to it and it’s not uncomfortable. I wear it at kindergarten for activities with my friends and I wear it on the LRT,” says Tunku Murshid.

“It’s not difficult,” he adds.

Mother Wong Jane Khei, 35, says her three-year-old son Cho Khai Yang is also comfortable going out with a mask.

“He never complains about it,” she says.

The associate account director with a public relations agency is thankful that despite his young age, her toddler understands the importance of masking up.

“We have conversations with him about masking and he knows that safety and health are important. He is consciously cautious of his surroundings.

Wong (left) says Cho is comfortable masking up and never complains. — WONG JANE KHEI

“Sometimes, it is him who reminds us to put on our masks and pass one to him when he sees a large group of people. In fact, he will wear the mask himself,” she adds.

“I feel secure with a mask on. My mum told me to wear a mask when there are a lot of people,” says Cho.

Wong usually buys breathable masks that can fit her son’s small face well to make sure he is comfortable.

“All of my friends in kindergarten wear masks too and mummy told me it’s best for me to mask up to prevent me from getting sick,” says Cho.

“It’s true,” Wong says. “We notice that he does not get sick often these days, even when other kids around him are having cough or cold. I believe if everyone masks up, the possibility of infecting others is lower too,”

Tunku Mohar agrees. “Murshid gets sick less despite starting kindergarten this year and being exposed to children from different households,”

Indran and Mohana with their daughters (from left) Hasheca, Saillajha and Sarannya. All his three children feel uncomfortable masking up. — INDRAN BALAVISHNU

Back to comfort

On the contrary, Indran Balavishnu, 47, is happy with the Health Ministry’s new decision. His three children, he says, are not comfortable with wearing masks.

“It’s difficult for us parents to watch our children in discomfort and pain when masking up when masks are supposed to protect them from infection,” says the regional head of a UK-based company in Kuala Lumpur.

He says all their three children – 13-year-old Hasheca and nine-year-old twins Sarannya and Saillajha would feel throat irritation within the first hour of masking up.

“They would have prolonged cough which eventually affected their overall well-being, physically and mentally.

“My wife and I have tried all types of masks, from the good and expensive ones to the cheap and basic ones. None of them are comfortable on my daughters,” he says.

If it were up to them, Indran says, his daughters prefer not to mask at all.

“Yes, if it were up to us, we would not want to put them on. I only mask up because my parents and teachers ask me to do so but thankfully, now the school rules are more relaxed,” says Hasheca.

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A matter of preferenceBack to comfort