Coronavirus: Governments urge parents to keep children away from grandparents

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As more governments decide to close down schools amid the global outbreak of the coronavirus, families are having to weigh the risks of leaving the children with grandparents who are among those most vulnerable to the disease.

However medical experts are recommending grandparents and grandchildren practice social distancing, as the elderly are a high risk group for the virus, technically known as COVID-19.

Grandparents keeping a distance of one to two meters from their grandchildren makes sense during this time, according to Dr. Kaveh Khoshnood, a professor of epidemiology at Yale University's School of Public Health.

“But it is very important to explain to the children what this virus is and why they would not want to kiss or hug their grandparents during this time. We don’t want the children to think, ‘what’s wrong with me?’” said Dr. Khoshnood in an interview with Al Arabiya English.

“It’s a balancing act of protecting the grandparent from a potential exposure but also paying attention to the mental health of the grandparents and the children,” he added.

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In the United Kingdom, where schools have not been shut yet, the British government has urged parents to avoid having their children socializing with their grandparents.

In Italy, Italian grandparents – “nonni” as they are called – were pulled in two contradictory directions on Thursday – but as usual, the grandchildren won out.

In a decree that took effect Thursday, the Italian government urged the elderly and infirm to stay at home and restricted visits to nursing homes and assisted living facilities to contain the spread of coronavirus among those most vulnerable to it.

But Italian grandparents were out in force at the nation’s playgrounds and parks, stepping in as last-minute babysitters after the government canceled school nationwide the previous day.

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Grandparents, the elderly and their families should avoid public transport, avoid hugging each other and stay clear of public events to minimize the risk of becoming exposed to the coronavirus, Germany’s social affairs minister said last week.

Seven people have so far died in Germany as of Saturday in the coronavirus epidemic, which has been more deadly for older people. The elderly are particularly at risk from family members who contract the infection but show few symptoms.

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“Older people, grandparents and their families should rethink their habits, for example by avoiding local public transport, stopping hugging people and not attending large public events,” German Minister for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth Franziska Giffey said in a statement.

In Spain, the advice to keep grandparents away from children poses a problem for working parents. According to a Euronews report citing AFP, a study found that one in four Spanish grandparents oversees the daily care of their grandchildren while parents work, including picking up children from school or preparing their meals.

(With inputs from AFP, Reuters and the Associated Press)

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