Keep kids at home — if you can

Concerns that children are being left out of HIV prevention effortds (File photo)

The national lockdown has moved from level five to level four from May 1, and although restrictions on movement have eased, going into public spaces still comes with conditions — such as wearing a cloth face mask at all times. Non-essential workers should continue to stay home, practice social distancing and remember to wash their hands frequently at home.  

However, parents are taking their children along to shopping malls to buy essential goods. Greer van Zyl, from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) South Africa says that parents should try their utmost to leave their child at home when going shopping.  

“If there is a possibility to leave children at home when parents go to shopping malls that would be a preferred option to protect them,” he tells Health-e News. 

“However, if they have to go out with parents, all measures and precautions should be taken to ensure that children are not exposed, such as not touching faces, using cough and sneeze etiquette and using hand sanitisers if available — as well as when they arrive back home parents should urge the family to practice all usual prevention measures such as washing hands and not touching faces,” he adds. 

Another children’s advocacy organisation, Save the Children South Africa, shares UNICEF South Africa’s sentiments. Spokesperson for the organisation, Sibusiso Khasa, advises parents and caregivers to be extra vigilant during this difficult period. 

“Children are particularly vulnerable because they like to touch and taste the world around them and they often don’t understand health advice. Parents should ensure that children respect current lockdown regulations and stay at home. If parents have to go but food or medication where possible — we urge them to leave children home,” says Khasa. 

‘Leaving my child at home is too risky’ 

Sibahle Zulu from Hillcrest, and mother to a four-year-old toddler, says the only reason she takes her son along with her when she goes shopping is because there is no one to take care of him at home. Her domestic worker is not allowed to return to work under current regulations. 

“We stay in a suburban area where everyone minds their own business, so I can’t tell my neighbor to stay with my child while I’m gone shopping. It’s too risky. I will rather suffer with him, but make sure that I take precautions every time and I’m always vigilant. He knows that he has to be next to me, and not touch anything without my approval,” she tells Health-e News. 

Samantha Ogle’s six-year-old twins stay in the car while she shops, and she asks a car guard or security attendant to “keep an eye on them.” 

“It’s not easy to leave your children with strangers because you are afraid that they could get infected with Covid-19 if they come along with you to shop for essential services. The reason I leave them in the car is because I know that they like to touch things, and they are naughty.” 

As Khasa states, children are difficult to control in public settings, and Ogle finds that short trips to the grocery store — with her children safely in the car — are better than her children’s antics in the supermarket. 

“They like to run around which could cause them to bump into someone who has this virus, and get infected. That’s why I am making it easier for myself by keeping them in the car,” Ogle adds. 

Tozi Masinga*,who is a security guard at a Hillcrest supermarket, says she has witnessed many parents coming along with their children, although many stores restrict the number of shoppers allowed in. 

“What’s worse is that they spend a lot of time in the shop, filling up their trolley,” she adds. — Health-e News 


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