“Children cannot go on being subjected to radical measures” for sake of Covid-19, say pediatricians

“It’s not enough for children to survive the pandemic. They need to be protected from exaggerated and radical attitudes” that have transformed the way they used to be treated.

This is the message from pediatricians today – members of the national commission for Maternal health, the Child and Adolescent, which has come up with a ‘document of reflection’.

Explains Público, when Covid-19 first hit (and no-one knew what they were dealing with) “babies were separated from their mothers at birth, husbands/ partners were refused access to births, and pregnancy consultations; doctors refused to listen to the heartbeats of children with Covid-19 – while these were relentlessly subjected to “multiple and successive diagnostic tests”, some of them very uncomfortable.

As a mother in Marmelete commented over social media earlier this week, children in the village near Monchique were heard ‘screaming’ as health officials stuck metal rods up their noses to test for Covid-19. Almost every single one – if not every single one – came back negative.

For pediatricians, this kind of exercise – when children are known to have a level of infection vastly reduced from adults, and generally be asymptomatic – is ‘over-the-top’.

“There has to be good sense”, president of the commission Gonçalo Cordeiro Ferreira told Público in the context of the document that attempts to evaluate the pandemic “in multiple dimensions, like education and mental health”.

What pediatricians have tried to show, “on the basis of our own experience and literature”, is that many of the excessive measures (brought in at the outset) have been worse for the physical and mental health of children than the risk of infection.

While measures for “other situations like Ebola” might have made sense when Covid first hit, “they are totally unreasonable (now) for a virus that primarily affects the respiratory system” and which, in children, is generally suffered mildly if at all.

Today, in the light of all the knowledge gleaned over the last few months, “there is no excuse for ignorance or fear… school, physical activity, leisure time, contact with family, health beyond Covid-19 cannot be held hostage to a society militarised against the pandemic, with health professionals and institutions solely focused on this one task. Hospitals cannot be bunkers in which radical unnecessary measures erode the principles of humanisation of care, which we believed to be well-rooted but which were instantly sacrificed”, said Mr Ferreira.

“The answer has to be balanced, and focused on high-risk groups”.

Explaining that due to the low rate of transmission by children, the need for schools to remain open is paramount, sociologist Maria João Valente Rosa, told Público that the “very controlled” measures in schools run the risk of “translating into worsening inequalities in terms of academic success, setting back the already low level of social mobility in Portugal”.

The national commission for maternal health, the child and Adolescent, is a consultation body of the DGS (Portuguese health authority), thus it is possible that its ‘reflections’ will be taken into account.