Two schoolboys in China have died of sudden cardiac arrest in a space of a week as they take part in PE lessons while wearing face masks.
Two Chinese boys drop dead during PE lessons while wearing face masks amid concerns over students' fitness following three months of school closure.
The pupils from two Chinese cities died of sudden cardiac arrest within a week
Li, 15, collapsed after jogging in PE class while wearing a face mask on April 24 and the other boy, 14, reportedly died during a running exam whilst wearing a mask.
The students from two different Chinese cities, both 'suddenly' collapsed on their schools' running track and were subsequently pronounced dead on April 24 and April 30 respectively.
Chinese education authorities have cancelled running tests for this term as a result of concerns over students' fitness following three months of school closures.
A 15-year-old schoolboy, known by his surname Li, was declared dead on April 24 after he collapsed during a PE lesson at the Dancheng Caiyuan Middle School in Henan Province of central China.
The student's father, Mr Li, told the press that his son was running in laps on the school's sports ground before Li fell backwards.
It is believed that the boys had had trouble breathing during the exercise due to their face masks.
Their deaths came after another student also reportedly dropped dead during a PE lesson on April 14, but it has remained unclear if the pupil had been wearing a face mask.
'It happened within two to three minutes during his PE class.
'He was wearing a mask while lapping the running track, then he suddenly fell backwards and hit his head on the ground,' said Mr Li.
'It was sunny and their PE class was in the afternoon when it was at least 20 degrees Celsius,' the Chinese father suggested.
'It couldn't have been comfortable wearing a mask while running.'
Mr Li's son had only been back at school for four days after classes resumed on April 20 for the first time since late January following three-month of coronavirus closure.
Cao Lanxiu, professor at the Shaanxi University of Chinese Medicine, disagreed with suggestions that the face mask might have caused the death.
'I don't think mask-donning has caused this sudden death,' said Ms Cao. 'If this student had trouble breathing, he would've been conscious of that and wouldn't have continued to run with the mask on until his heart stopped.'
The professor added that the only way to determine the cause of Li's death was to carry out an autopsy.
The student's family declined to conduct an autopsy to preserve the boy's body, according to the press. It remains undisclosed if there were any conclusive links between Li's death and wearing a face mask.
Tens of thousands of graduating students in China have returned to the campus after spending three months at home due to coronavirus.
Dr Ren Zhiming, a chief medic from Xinhua Hospital at Shanghai Jiao Tong University, echoed Ms Cao's remark by suggesting that the pupil's death could be linked to undetected heart diseases.
'It is possible that exercising caused Li's sudden death. Another reason could be that he had some heart-related diseases that were not detected before,' Dr Ren told People's Daily.
'Running while wearing a face mask definitely affects the amount of oxygen [a person inhales], but it would not necessarily cause sudden death.'
The other schoolboy, who was not identified, was reportedly taking part in a 1,000-metre (0.62 miles) running exam while wearing an N95 respirator on April 30 when he collapsed and died at the Xiangjun Future Experimental School in Changsha, Hunan Province of southern China.
He is also thought to have died due to breathing difficulties during the PE exam, Chinese media report. It is unknown if an autopsy has been ordered to determine the cause of death.
A 16-year-old student from eastern Chinese city Wenzhou was pronounced dead after he collapsed and died whilst running during a PE lesson on April 14.
Schools in Shanghai installed screening facilities featuring ultra red thermometers at the gate to monitor students' temperatures when there are more than 100 people on campus.
Authorities from several major cities – including Tianjin and Shanghai - have cancelled running tests for students this year amid concerns over pupils' fitness following the school closures.
The provinces of Shaanxi and Zhejiang have also removed running from PE exams while manufacturing hub Shenzhen said it would offer an alternative option for its physical training exam due to the Guangdong provincial government's decision to leave plans unchanged.
The provinces of Henan as well as Hunan, where the two deaths occurred, are yet to announce changes regarding PE lessons or exams.