COVID-19: Parents Need To Protect Their Children

The percentage distribution of COVID-19 by age in Ghana shows that both children and adults are at risk of the infection once they are exposed to the virus, in spite of an earlier assertion that children are less susceptible to it, hence the need for parents to protect their children.

The Ghana Health Service’s March and April data sourced from its website on Thursday, April 16, 2020, indicate that the percentage distribution of persons aged 15 and younger infected by the virus in the country has 50 per cent being males and 50 per cent females.

Of those aged 15-24, about 67 per cent are males and 33 per cent females, while the 25-34 bracket has 60 per cent males and 30 per cent females. For the 35 to 44 age group, males account for 78 per cent while females are about 22 per cent, while the 49 to 59 age bracket has 65 per cent males and 35 per cent females. For those aged 60 plus, 58 per cent are males and 42 per cent females.

Experts have argued that within the adult world, there have been devastating effects of the Coronavirus, whereas among children, the effect is said to be mild or asymptomatic.

Initially, when the novel Coronavirus broke out, the world was made to understand that the pandemic could hardly affect children but as time rolled on, we have read and seen that children too could be infected and even die from the disease.

The Agence France-Presse and Associated Press reported on April 1, 2020 that a 12-year-old girl in Belgium and a 13-year old boy in the United Kingdom died through COVID-19 infections.

The media report indicated that the two children were believed to be the youngest victims of the disease in their respective countries.

A spokesman had added that the girl had fever for three days and had tested positive for Coronavirus.

Meanwhile, French authorities earlier reported the death of a 16-year-old girl, identified as Julie A, at a children's hospital in Paris, also believed to be as a result of the Coronavirus.

The US State of Illinois, in March, announced the death of an infant under-one year who had tested positive for the COVID-19.

Other media reports have indicated that medical reports on cases in China had also documented the death of a 10-month-old baby and a 14-year-old boy, all to COVID-19.

If these media reports are anything to go by, then parents in Africa, and for that matter Ghana, need to seriously support national efforts at combatting the spread of the virus for both children and adults to stay alive and safe.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has explained that the disease, which originated from Wuhan, China, has become a pandemic due to its geographical spread. The symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath, while in more severe cases, the infection can cause pneumonia, breathing difficulties and death, though symptoms are similar to flu (influenza) or common cold.

Anyone showing these symptoms is tested to determine whether he or she is positive for COVID-19 or not. Ghana recorded its first two cases on March 12, 2020, and the subsequent increase in cases necessitated President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo to announce a social distancing measure, which prohibited social gatherings and the closing-down of schools; from primary to university.

As at April 29, Ghana had recorded 1,671 positive cases, 16 deaths and 188 recoveries from 12 out of the 16 regions.

A known fact is that in many nations the world over, citizens, including children, are living in lockdowns and experiencing the unpleasant isolation due to the virus.

Ghana has lifted its three-week Stay Home Directive imposed on Accra, Tema, Kasoa and Kumasi, due to the progress made in tracing of contacts and testing for the virus. However, schools remain closed and children have to continue to stay home, which they have done for five weeks now.

Our children are already becoming bored with the restrictions and social distancing protocols, which, nevertheless, is believed to make us all stay safe from the virus.

Typically of children, they wished they could be allowed to go out and play with their friends as usual, once they think they are on some sort of a holiday at home. They also wish to go back to school soon to learn, and to meet their school mates.

They naturally see the closure of their schools as an opportunity to stay off their books, watch cartoons and wrestling on television, as exhibited by my three children, who would always struggle to home-learn whenever we, their parents, want them to.

Adjoa, a 10-year girl in my community, said: “Yes, we have heard about the virus and the social distancing, but we still want to be allowed to go out and play, we will be careful when we are allowed to play outside with our friends”.

Another 12-year old boy named Charles, said: “I’m so bored about not even being allowed to play football with my friends, or do our bicycle races too”.

However, as parents, how can we be sure that our children would be safe from this dreaded pandemic when we allow them to play their usual ‘ampe’ and football outside?

Since we cannot be sure of their safety, parents need to partner the Government and other authorities to guard their children against the COVID-19, as well as impress upon them to appreciate the need to “stay home” so they would be safe to go back to school and fulfil their dreams, when all is well.

As parents, we need to strictly enforce the regular handwashing with soap under running water and inculcate that culture in our children. We must teach them to use alcohol-based hand sanitizers, cover their mouth and nose with tissue when coughing or sneezing and disposing of it in a closed bin, or cough into a flexed elbow in the absence of a tissue.

Perhaps the advice from UNICEF is the way to go to ensure proper handwashing. This involves wetting hands with running water; applying enough soap to cover the wet hands; scrubbing all surfaces of the hands including the back, between fingers and under nails for at least 20 seconds; then rinsing thoroughly with running water, and drying with a clean cloth or single-use towel.

We need to advice our children to avoid close contact with people, especially anyone with cold or flu-like symptoms, while we clean and disinfect doorknobs, light switches, countertops, phones and remote controls among other objects.

Indeed, we need to take good care of children, especially paediatrics with additional medical needs and concerns, who have been found to have a tough time in fighting COVID-19 just like adults, and seek medical care early if they have a fever, cough or difficulty in breathing.

Parents must discuss the COVID-19 with their children and teach them to wear nose masks to avoid contracting the disease.