The death of an 11-year-old boy in Japan has raised doubts as to whether children should wear anti-virus masks in physical education classes. The debate essentially boils down to the risk of new coronavirus infections or heat-related diseases, however, it is not known how much the mask may have really influenced the death of the child.
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The death of the little boy
The fifth-grade pupil in Takatsuki, Osaka Prefecture collapsed after a five-minute run in the elementary school playground at around 9am on February 18. He was taken to hospital but died of heart failure in the early afternoon. When he was transferred to the school infirmary, he was wearing a mask. The protective device thus ended up under accusation even if it was immediately said that there were no correlations and the boy’s death remains a mystery.
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The guidelines of the Japanese schools
Takatsuki’s educational council guidelines clearly state that students wearing masks “should refrain from exercises that cause shortness of breath.” However, a council representative made it clear that the school’s five-minute run “was not a speed competition” and therefore, “it is not an exercise that shortens the breath.” The elementary school had told the pupils that they could take off their masks during physical education classes. But if worried about the risk of coronavirus infections, they could keep the device on.
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Template: debate on risks and benefits after the events of February 18
The discourse around the death of the boy has become a real national case, which sees on the one hand an analysis of the risks on the non-use of anti-contagion health devices and at the same time the possibility of feeling bad for the use of the latter. A representative from Tokyo’s Itabashi Ward Education Council said, “Preventing heat sickness is the most important thing. We told schools that students should take off their masks in physical education classes, in principle, on the premise that they keep a safe distance from the people around them. ‘ An educational council from another neighborhood expressed more concerns about the spread of the new coronavirus. The guidelines instruct students to continue wearing masks, in principle, except when there is a high risk of developing heat illness: in such high-risk situations, students can remove the masks if they maintain a physical distance of safety from each other.