Hong Kong News

Nonpartisan, Noncommercial, unconstrained.
Friday, May 24, 2024

How I mothered 2 young girls through Hong Kong’s long mask mandate

How I mothered 2 young girls through Hong Kong’s long mask mandate

Post’s Hong Kong correspondent Jeffie Lam looks back at city’s Covid curbs through eyes of her daughters, who have mostly known mask wearing as a must.

After almost three years, tomorrow I will not be having a struggle session with my one-year-old daughter.

With the mask mandate finally being removed in Hong Kong from Wednesday, I no longer have to worry if Maia has a face covering each time we step outside our door.

Each day that I’ve had to put it on her, I know she will pull it off just as swiftly with her tiny hands, often even before my back is turned. The masks, most of the time, would be drenched in drool within the hour, leaving me pondering the wisdom of masking a toddler.

As the pandemic has eased in the past few months, I have allowed Maia to go “naked”, taking refuge in the exemption to compulsory masking of toddlers below the age of two. But it is not easy to stand your ground when you get censorious glares suggesting your child is ill-disciplined for not being masked.

Many young children in Hong Kong have only known the city’s strict adherence to mask-wearing.


Maia was born at the height of the fifth pandemic outbreak in February last year. Amid a snowballing Omicron cluster at Kwai Chung Estate at the time, I was reminded to keep my mask on even in the delivery room.

My eldest daughter, Andrea, who is four now, had a brief taste of freedom before she started having to wear a mask by the time she was 15 months old. She has lived longer with a mask than without one.

As a resident who went through the Sars outbreak in 2003, I have always been proud of Hongkongers’ vigilance and self-discipline, from the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic all the way to the bitter end.

We masked up to protect one another before our government asked us to; we cleaned our hands with sanitisers without anyone reminding us and wiped down surfaces like pros, long before the campaigns and slogans set in.

But our patience wore thin when the mask mandate persisted while other countries moved on. For me, the impact of masks has been deeply personal as I saw up close how it affected my children’s development.

Our hearts sank the day we heard Andrea telling us, while heading home from school, that we should not speak when we do not have our masks on.

She said it so innocently, as if it was a fact everyone should know.

I do not blame the teachers at all, who were only enforcing the guidelines issued by the Education Bureau at the time which said pupils should be reminded to refrain from talking when their masks were taken off to eat or drink.

Other measures under the tough guidelines, which also applied to primary and secondary schools, included requiring schools to install partitions between pupils at mealtimes and ensuring they were not seated facing each other while eating.

Mask-wearing for young children has been linked to speech issues.


My heart ached realising she had yet to experience normal school life in nursery or kindergarten, where chatter, whoops of delight, tears of despair and peals of laughter are heard in turn, almost in equal parts.

Indeed, her teacher told me that Andrea could not help but stare at her during meal times when they were having lunch together, so unfamiliar she was with seeing the full face of a person who wasn’t a family member.

It also reminded me of how anxious Andrea was when she first attended virtual classes during school suspensions.

She tried to hide from the camera and avoided seeing the teacher. Yes, those were the rare occasions when she could see her teachers’ faces in full and not just their eyes and foreheads.

Andrea probably still has no idea what her classmates who do not opt to stay for lunch look like, even after two years of being in the same place for more than three hours each day.

Even in their official class photos, an important piece of memorabilia of her kindergarten years that she should treasure, everyone is masked and unrecognisable – so you can imagine that will be even more so later in life when she looks back on it.

Official figures show that the number of children in Hong Kong under 12 with speech-related problems rose significantly during the pandemic from 4,300 in 2019, to 4,570 in 2020 and 5,401 in 2021.

Experts attribute the trend to the fact that children could not observe how others moved their mouths while speaking, with some also raising concerns about their ability to read others’ emotions.

Andrea, too, was a slow talker, who did not begin speaking until she was 2½ years old. The compulsory masking definitely did not help her and neither did the suspension of school, which happened from time to time between 2020 and 2022.

Lifting the mask mandate is just the beginning for her and other young children in our city.

As some paediatricians rightly point out, it probably takes time to explain to children that being without a mask, rather than masked, is actually “the norm”. Many will probably feel anxious with their masks off – a relatable sentiment for some adults.

I appreciate the government adjusting its policies last year by refraining from ordering yet another citywide school suspension after taking the developmental well-being of children into account.

If there is one lesson to be drawn over the masking of children, I hope policymakers will study the potential lifelong impact, if not harm, it could cause our young ones before they make such draconian moves.

The pandemic was a global catastrophe and millions lost their lives. But among those who survived, let’s not forget the children in our midst whose struggles will last a while longer.

If they are quieter than you were growing up, less willing to say hello or just seem disengaged overall, be empathetic to them.

Newsletter

Related Articles

Hong Kong News
0:00
0:00
Close
It's always the people with the dirty hands pointing their fingers
Paper straws found to contain long-lasting and potentially toxic chemicals - study
FTX's Bankman-Fried headed for jail after judge revokes bail
Blackrock gets half a trillion dollar deal to rebuild Ukraine
Steve Jobs' Son Launches Venture Capital Firm With $200 Million For Cancer Treatments
Google reshuffles Assistant unit, lays off some staffers, to 'supercharge' products with A.I.
End of Viagra? FDA approved a gel against erectile dysfunction
UK sanctions Russians judges over dual British national Kara-Murza's trial
US restricts visa-free travel for Hungarian passport holders because of security concerns
America's First New Nuclear Reactor in Nearly Seven Years Begins Operations
Southeast Asia moves closer to economic unity with new regional payments system
Political leader from South Africa, Julius Malema, led violent racist chants at a massive rally on Saturday
Today Hunter Biden’s best friend and business associate, Devon Archer, testified that Joe Biden met in Georgetown with Russian Moscow Mayor's Wife Yelena Baturina who later paid Hunter Biden $3.5 million in so called “consulting fees”
'I am not your servant': IndiGo crew member, passenger get into row over airline meal
Singapore Carries Out First Execution of a Woman in Two Decades Amid Capital Punishment Debate
Spanish Citizenship Granted to Iranian chess player who removed hijab
US Senate Republican Mitch McConnell freezes up, leaves press conference
Speaker McCarthy says the United States House of Representatives is getting ready to impeach Joe Biden.
San Francisco car crash
This camera man is a genius
3D ad in front of Burj Khalifa
Next level gaming
BMW driver…
Google testing journalism AI. We are doing it already 2 years, and without Google biased propoganda and manipulated censorship
Unlike illegal imigrants coming by boats - US Citizens Will Need Visa To Travel To Europe in 2024
Musk announces Twitter name and logo change to X.com
The politician and the journalist lost control and started fighting on live broadcast.
The future of sports
Unveiling the Black Hole: The Mysterious Fate of EU's Aid to Ukraine
Farewell to a Music Titan: Tony Bennett, Renowned Jazz and Pop Vocalist, Passes Away at 96
Alarming Behavior Among Florida's Sharks Raises Concerns Over Possible Cocaine Exposure
Transgender Exclusion in Miss Italy Stirs Controversy Amidst Changing Global Beauty Pageant Landscape
Joe Biden admitted, in his own words, that he delivered what he promised in exchange for the $10 million bribe he received from the Ukraine Oil Company.
TikTok Takes On Spotify And Apple, Launches Own Music Service
Global Trend: Using Anti-Fake News Laws as Censorship Tools - A Deep Dive into Tunisia's Scenario
Arresting Putin During South African Visit Would Equate to War Declaration, Asserts President Ramaphosa
Hacktivist Collective Anonymous Launches 'Project Disclosure' to Unearth Information on UFOs and ETIs
Typo sends millions of US military emails to Russian ally Mali
Server Arrested For Theft After Refusing To Pay A Table's $100 Restaurant Bill When They Dined & Dashed
The Changing Face of Europe: How Mass Migration is Reshaping the Political Landscape
China Urges EU to Clarify Strategic Partnership Amid Trade Tensions
The Last Pour: Anchor Brewing, America's Pioneer Craft Brewer, Closes After 127 Years
Democracy not: EU's Digital Commissioner Considers Shutting Down Social Media Platforms Amid Social Unrest
Sarah Silverman and Renowned Authors Lodge Copyright Infringement Case Against OpenAI and Meta
Why Do Tech Executives Support Kennedy Jr.?
The New York Times Announces Closure of its Sports Section in Favor of The Athletic
BBC Anchor Huw Edwards Hospitalized Amid Child Sex Abuse Allegations, Family Confirms
Florida Attorney General requests Meta CEO's testimony on company's platforms' alleged facilitation of illicit activities
The Distorted Mirror of actual approval ratings: Examining the True Threat to Democracy Beyond the Persona of Putin
40,000 child slaves in Congo are forced to work in cobalt mines so we can drive electric cars.
×