A grandmother and her two grandchildren were reportedly refused entry into a major clothing and food retailer in Phalaborwa by the security guard at the door – because the 8-month-old baby was not wearing a face mask. We spoke to the lady in question who explained that she accompanied her daughter and two grandchildren to the shops on Friday, the 18th of September. The eldest of the two children is 3-years old while the baby is just shy of nine months.
“My daughter, with her two children and I entered Woolworths in Phalaborwa. Upon approaching the entrance, the security guard bluntly refused us entry unless the baby wore a face mask,” said the shocked grandmother. “Obviously, an argument ensued and after a completely useless debate, we decided that I would take the baby and go and wait in the car outside in the parking lot while my daughter and her eldest entered the store and did their shopping.”
At this store, there is no shade or undercover parking and so the grandmother and baby were sat in the heat while her daughter conducted her business. Bulletin contacted the store’s management who claimed that they were not aware of the Covid-19 rules for children, specifically for five years and under. The manager promised to inform his staff and security about the correct procedures and did not wish for customers to feel unwelcome at this store.
According to the World Health Organisation, in general, children aged five years and under should not be required to wear masks. This advice is based on the safety and overall interest of the child and the capacity to appropriately use a mask with minimal assistance.
There may be local requirements for children aged 5 years and under to wear masks, or specific needs in some settings, such as being physically close to someone who is ill. In these circumstances, if the child wears a mask, a parent or guardian should be within direct line of sight to supervise the safe use of the mask as it could become a choking hazard to babies and toddlers.
The grandmother raised her concern with Bulletin, without wanting to start a smear campaign against the specific store, but rather with the mindset to use their experience as an example for other people to stand their ground in such incidents and also to know what the correct procedures are.
According to Side-by-Side, a national campaign for pregnant women and caregivers of children younger than five years of age, children over the age of two should wear a face mask when outside of the home. But they should also still keep about two metres away from other people. That is about the length of a bed.
The site also states that a child should not wear a mask if they cannot breathe properly through the mask, if it makes them fiddle with the mask and touches their face more often, they cannot take off the mask on their own because of a disability, or they are under two years of age. Bulletin was unable to gain exact clarity on the issue of babies and masks on the South African government’s Department of Health website.