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Infant dies after allegedly suffocating on mask at New Taipei daycare

01/24/2024 05:45 PM
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CNA photo Jan. 24, 2024
CNA photo Jan. 24, 2024

Taipei, Jan. 24 (CNA) Authorities in New Taipei on Wednesday said they are investigating the death of an 11-month-old boy at a public daycare center, which the child's family allege happened when he suffocated on a mask a teacher forced him to wear.

In a Facebook post on Tuesday night, CTS news anchor Lin Yen-ju (林彥汝) shared a message she said she received from a friend, who was also the child's maternal aunt.

In the message, the boy's aunt said the New Taipei public daycare center her nephew went to had begun asking children to wear masks this week due to the rising number of respiratory illnesses going around.

According to surveillance video footage viewed by the parents, she said, the incident on Monday happened when the boy became irritated and took off his mask, after which the teacher put it back on for him.

At that point, the child burst out crying, which "possibly saturated the mask with tears and mucus, causing it to stick to his nose and mouth and suffocate him," the message said.

In the video footage, the child was then seen "struggling" and "falling over." The teacher, however, apparently assumed he had become exhausted and fallen asleep, and only discovered that he was unresponsive 20 minutes later, when it was time to move the kids to another room, the message said.

The aunt said her nephew's prognosis was not good and that her sister had already signed a do not resuscitate order. Lin's post, meanwhile, said that the boy had died in the time since she received the message.

Responding to the incident on Wednesday, Hsu Hsiu-neng (許秀能), deputy head of New Taipei's Social Welfare Department, confirmed that her office had received a report from a daycare center on Monday about the death of an 11-month-old boy, and was providing assistance to the child's family.

New Taipei police added that they had seized surveillance video footage from the daycare center and asked prosecutors to conduct an autopsy to determine the child's cause of death.

In Hsu's statement, she noted that with the recent spell of cold weather, there had been a spike in various types of respiratory illnesses among young children.

For that reason, "daycare centers have asked parents to have their children wear masks, in order to prevent cross infection and to protect their health," she said.

In a separate response, however, Centers for Disease Control spokesman Lo Yi-chun (羅一鈞) clarified that the current government regulations do not require masks to be worn at daycare centers.

The mask mandate for school campuses -- including daycare centers -- was lifted on March 6 last year, and it has not been reinstated since then, Lo said in a statement to the press.

On Wednesday afternoon, the child’s parents said that they had filed a lawsuit against the daycare center’s manager, surnamed Chang (張), and three staffers for negligent homicide.

(By Sunrise Huang, Wang Kung-kuo and Matthew Mazzetta)

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