‘Empty consulting rooms and paediatric wards are frightening. Surely it is unlikely that there are no sick children out there?’
FIVE paediatric specialists attached to the University of Pretoria (UP) have lashed out at how lockdown regulations have blocked children from accessing health care.
Lore van Bruwaene, Fatima Mustafa, Jeane Cloete, Ahmeena Goga and Robin J Green, from UP’s Department of Paediatrics and Child Health, joined a list of doctors attached to institutions who have criticised some of the lockdown regulations.
The acclaimed South African Medical Journal published an academic editorial of the five under the title, “What are we doing to the children of South Africa under the guise of Covid-19 lockdown?”
The five wrote about their observations of how the lockdown regulations have led to empty paediatric wards, in a country with high disease rates.
They also expressed concern about the medical treatment being given to children who were suspected or confirmed Covid-19 cases.
“Mothers are no longer allowed into paediatric wards, doctors and nurses are refusing to see or care for children if their Covid-19 status is unknown, and the first reports have come through about clinics declining to provide essential services, such as immunisation,” wrote the group.
“However, tuberculosis and influenza are estimated to kill 60 000 and 10 000 South Africans, respectively, every year.
“The care of children with these deadly diseases is currently being compromised by the extraordinary measures being taken to halt the spread of Covid-19.
“Empty consulting rooms and paediatric wards are frightening. Surely it is unlikely that there are no sick children out there?
“Have we driven disease underground?
“And more frightening still, have we perhaps allowed sick children to die at home without care.”
The university specialists said they were worried about the medical treatment of suspected or confirmed Covid-19 children.
“Senior paediatricians are treating children with empirical antibiotics, hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin, even for mild disease, although these are not recommended in any guideline,” they wrote.
“Side effects, antibiotic resistance and dysbiosis of our microbiome are still important reasons not to use unnecessary antibiotics.
“Hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin have no proven benefit in Covid-19, and if used should be reserved for severe cases and preferably as part of a clinical research trial.”
The quintet said the country’s children were “victims” of lockdown regulations despite latest paediatric data on Covid-19 indicating they were at “less risk of being infected than adults”.
“Once infected, most children present with mild symptoms, if any, and although severe disease is possible, it is rare and mortality is negligible when compared with other childhood diseases in Africa,” said the paediatricians.
“Whatever the cause of the mass hysteria, when it comes to children, this fear is not in line with the latest paediatric data on Covid-19.”
Reasons why South Africans are so disproportionately afraid of Covid-19 remain elusive, they wrote.
Their critique of lockdown regulations came at a time when the majority of parents in the country were opposed to the plan to reopen schools.
The mortality rate among the thousands who caught the virus was 1.74% and nearly half of the Covid-19 positive individuals have now recovered, said the UP five. Also, “the majority of those infected have had a mild or asymptomatic illness”.
“But in anticipation of the reopening of schools, the SA Democratic Teachers’ Union stated that “corpses can neither be taught nor can they teach”, associating the opening of schools directly with Covid-19 and death.
“Children are the victims of the measures taken to halt the spread of Covid-19. They have been denied basic rights of access to health care and education,” they added.