By pushing school reopening again, the government is deliberately ignoring the detrimental effect the virus is having on an alarming number of children, argues Caitlin Southern
The news that up to 100 children a week are being hospitalised with post-Covid complications – categorised as paediatric inflammatory multi-system syndrome (PIMS) – is shocking and exposes the mantra that children aren’t as badly affected by Covid as deeply deceptive.
Furthermore, 75% of these cases are appearing in Black and ethnic minority children, which shows the brutal effects of inequality on health and recovery. Hospitalisation rates are only a partial reflection of the number of cases, meaning that potentially many more children will be experiencing these potentially lifelong conditions than are appearing in PICU wards.
Complications developing in previously healthy children after a Covid infection, whether they were symptomatic or not, is a worrying trend as it means that it becomes harder to predict the outcomes for these children. The ongoing nature of some of these conditions, such as heart and brain damage, may stay with the patients for the rest of their lives, with the full extent of the issues only becoming apparent in years to come.
Unfortunately, even this development isn’t enough for the government to enforce a hard, full lockdown with liveable furlough or sick pay. There continues to be no real attempt to make a return to schools safe, with the dominant message instead being that it’s better for children to be in a structured learning environment. This is clearly not the case while there are still very high infection rates.
This is yet another extremely stark and heart-breaking reminder that our government prioritises lining the pockets of the wealthy over the protection of the health of its most vulnerable people, forcing children into overcrowded schools and parents out to work despite the consequences to their health and wellbeing.
The morally repugnant idea of ‘acceptable losses’ is clearly at work again here, as even a spokesperson for the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health stated that the numbers of children developing these serious health conditions is not enough of a reason to keep schools and playgrounds closed.
Rather than trying to save every life, we are being encouraged to see them as disposable, worth sacrificing if it means the majority can continue as before. Saving the economy – or rather reinstating and reinforcing the unfair, unfit and exploitative system that led to such a dismal outcome for so many – has always been the priority of this government. They have forced health and scientific authorities to comply with and encourage measures that they know will cause ever more death and misery.
This is yet another reminder to these mostly poor, mostly non-white children that their lives don’t matter in this society – a message that has been continually reinforced since birth. The only way to be sure that these children don’t become at risk of developing the complications from Covid is to make sure that they don’t catch the virus in the first place.
For this, there must be a zero-Covid strategy. As the government has shown no signs of moving in that direction, we have to keep applying pressure ourselves.
Although relatively few children have died as yet, the fact that we’re here at all is a damning indictment of the entire pandemic response. Following the proper protocols and closing down unsafe schools could have saved the majority of these children from developing lifelong conditions.
By refusing to allow schools to close properly and failing to provide learning resources, while insisting on maintaining the current educational system that already robs so many children of a decent future, the government has consistently pushed the death toll higher.
Inflicting further, possibly lifelong, suffering on these children is par for the course with a government run in the interest of greed rather than need. They simply do not care that children are dying, and will die, because they insisted on rushing us all back to a ‘normal’ that only ever worked for the rich.
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