My son was at the hospital yesterday because his paediatrician’s room is there and he hadn’t gone three hours without almost capping his pants since in four days. Oh, and there was a 40-degree fever. We obviously feared the worst.
He hasn’t left the house in over two months, save for a couple of walks around the neighbourhood with about six metres between anyone else and my family – we live in community of small holdings and can go days without seeing our neighbours.
We social-distanced from the moment President Cyril Ramaphosa did his initial elbow jive on national TV. My daughter has already survived Swine and Flu Scarlet Fever, two of the most dangerous diseases for kids at the start of the 20th century, when those were going around in 2015-17 so we were taking zero chances with COVID-19.
In March SARS-CoV-2 was still novel and we literally knew nothing about how it would affect our society. Our only reference point at that stage was the seemingly uncontained outbreaks in China and Italy, as well as the worrying situation in Spain. I was scared and searched for answers so that I could keep my family safe.
It’s almost June and I’m still scared.
Schools will begin to reopen next week and the Collective anxiety of the nation has been triggered. The backlash against the lockdown seems to have been forgotten as the new round of calls is for government to show “courage” by opening Parliament first before sending our “children to the wolves.”
What did you think was going to happen? You wanted the economy to open and, unfortunately, that means parents need to get back to work and the kids need to be looked after. Schools are daycare centres.
My fear is also irrational. In the major outbreak regions I mentioned earlier (China, Italy and Spain) the COVID-19 infection rate among children was around 2 percent and lower. Yes, this could be because children aren’t being tested as widely as adults, but given that those low percentages are similar to the general population infection rate and general COVID-19 mortality rate, there really isn’t a reason for concern.
Children catch coronaviruses all the time. Seriously. Have you ever walked on a preschool playground during early winter? You know all those snotty noses or sniffles you saw? At least one in ten of those were caused by a coronavirus.
That same fact also calls into question the accuracy of the antibody tests that are all the rage in those arguments for a rapid reopening of the economy. But science currently points to this familiarity with similar viruses as the biggest reason why children seem to be untouched by the severe effects of the global pandemic.
This then brings us to the question of whether or not children are super spreaders who will bring the virus home after playing with Karen’s child because you know Karen doesn’t wash her hair after gym.
Well, there was a case in the French Alps where a 9-year-old was thought to have infected 170 people with SARS-CoV-2 and it has since turned out to be false. There will be many more of these stories in the coming weeks, but we can take heart that Karen’s laaitie is less of a threat to the health of your family than the Uber Eats driver who left your Chicken Korma on your doorstep yesterday afternoon.
I will send my kids back to school when the government deems it safe to do so because I believe in the positive effects of social interaction. My son’s preschool principal sent out a communication explaining the changes they will be adopting and it saddens me that little lessons in kindness learnt by sharing and taking turns with toys will be removed from society.
We’re sending our kids back into a sterile world covered in face masks and the best intentions and only time will tell us if it was a great idea or not. Right now I’m very happy to have grown up in a time where we could all drink from the hosepipe and have sleepovers on single beds.
My son had congested sinuses and a tummy bug that’s pretty common at the change of season. He didn’t catch those from another child.