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Youth deaths in China during gym exams put focus on mask policy

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    Kyodo News

Tokyo, Japan   /   Mon, May 11, 2020   /   10:15 am
Youth deaths in China during gym exams put focus on mask policy A student of a martial arts center trains while wearing a surgical mask to protect himself from coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Taipei, Taiwan, April 30, 2020. Photo taken on April 30, 2020. (REUTERS/Ann Wang)

At least two junior high school students in China collapsed and died last month during physical exercise examinations while wearing face masks, local media reported by Sunday.

The deaths of the teens have prompted experts to point out the dangers of wearing high-grade masks during intense exercise, with a movement promoting the non-necessity of wearing protective masks in gym class now gaining traction.

The two students in Hunan and Henan provinces aged 14 and 15 were participating in events such as 1,500-meter runs when they died days apart in mid- to late April, according to the reports.

Both were reportedly wearing N95 masks worn by health professionals treating coronavirus patients.

A third student in Zhejiang Province also died last month while running on a playground, but it remains unclear if he was wearing a mask.

As no autopsies were performed, it is impossible to know whether the students had preexisting conditions that could have contributed to death, the reports said.

Even so, some experts pointed out that performing intense exercise while wearing an N95 mask could lead to oxygen deficiency.

Although the resumption of classes is continuing around the country with students by and large wearing masks, several regional governments have notified schools that masks are not required for P.E. classes.

In Beijing, where third-year junior high schoolers will be heading back to class on Monday, the municipal education commission has called for students not to exercise vigorously in gym class, adding that the wearing of masks is not required.

In some areas, there are moves to altogether cancel the physical education component of high school entrance exams this summer.