A photograph of a baby wearing a full-face mask on a recent Air NZ flight has sparked fierce debate - but the man that took the photo says that the negative reaction is misplaced.
The photograph, taken on a flight from Auckland to Wellington on July 1, shows the child wearing an adult-sized mask across its entire face, with holes cut out for the eyes.
Jandre Opperman, who snapped the viral image and shared it on Instagram, told the Herald it was a "super-sweet interaction".
"The baby was full off joy, jumping around and giggling away. It made the wait to get off the plane a bit more entertaining."
As the image began to spread on social media, it began to attract negative comments from those who saw the masking as unsafe and indicative of an over-reaction towards mask-wearing.
Comments flooded in from those who said the image was "so incredibly sad" and showed "child abuse".
"If I saw this on a flight I'd remove the mask from her myself," said one irate commenter.
"Babies need air to develop," noted another, rather understating the importance of breathing.
Another said it was "dangerous to cover their breathing holes like this".
Opperman disagreed, saying the mask wasn't tight and the mum was attentive to the child and was ensuring its wellbeing.
"I think it was a mix of having a laugh, and trying her best to protect her child with the equipment available to her," he said.
Other commenters agreed, joking that the baby's raised fist was just "to assure you there's enough holes and gaps in the mask to breathe properly and don't be a Karen and complain about a picture on Facebook."
"Must be training as a superhero lol! The world is not yet ready for SuperBaby," said another.
Another succinctly told negative commenters to "relax your undies".
By law, all passengers over 12 must wear masks on domestic flights and the Government has offered advice to parents wanting to mask their younger children.
They recommend that parents choose a mask for children that fits them best, is comfortable to wear and can be worn consistently and say that the mask should cover their nose, mouth and chin without gaps above, below or on the sides.
They also suggest a knot and tuck technique can help better fit a larger-sized mask to a child's face.
None of these measures would likely fit the mask pictured to a baby's face and experts have not called for masking of children younger than 2.
Dr Amanda Kvalsvig, epidemiologist at the University of Otago Wellington, told the Herald that our approach to masks should be based on evidence and common sense and questioned whether the mask pictured would be effective.
"Masks offer effective protection against respiratory viruses but to work well, they need to be well-fitted so that air isn't moving around the sides of the mask. That need for a good seal around the mask would make me question whether a larger mask is going to be effective on a small face," she said.
She noted the safety concerns of very young children getting tangled in mask ties and said while supervision is essential, mask-wearing by our youngest is still often not going to be very practical.
"However, a key point about young children is that they very quickly show you when they feel uncomfortable," Kvalsvig said.
"If a young child is wearing a mask and they're active, alert, and happy and they're being closely supervised by an adult, that's reassuring to see."
She said parents would know best how to approach mask-wearing with their own children but recommended KF94-type masks, which are available in child sizes for primary-age children, which she said are very light and comfortable to wear.
"As we know, young children can experience more serious effects from Covid-19 infection and parents should have the opportunity to make a risk assessment and decide whether a mask is appropriate for their child," Kvalsvig said.
"But for the youngest children, the best way to protect them is for the adults to step up by getting vaccinated, wearing masks in public spaces, and taking a rapid antigen test before family gatherings to check that they're not infectious."