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Children must isolate alone if exposed to COVID-19, health guidance says. Experts call it ‘cruel’

Nicole Silverio, DCNF

A region in Southern Ontario, Canada, removed controversial coronavirus guidelines Monday that said children must isolate alone for 14 days if exposed to the coronavirus after experts and political leaders called it “cruel,” The Toronto Sun reported.

The Peel Region health department put forth guidelines recommending that children exposed to COVID-19 must remain in a room separated from family members for 14 days, including those who are asymptomatic. Experts called these guidelines “harmful and not supported by science,” Toronto Sun reported.

“This is cruel punishment for a child especially for younger children, 4-10 years old,” Dr. Susan Richardson, an infectious disease physician, told the Toronto Sun. “Shutting a child off from their parents and siblings for up to 14 days in this manner could produce a significant and long-lasting emotional and psychological effects.”

Dr. Tess Clifford, the director of the Psychology Clinic at Queen’s University, told the Sun that children will suffer from mental distress from the isolation.

“This does not seem practically possible and is highly likely to cause harm to children who would already be experiencing considerable distress with having to remain at home,” Clifford said.

Mayor of Brampton Patrick Brown opposes the guidelines calling them a “mistake,” according to The Sun.

“Public Health must ensure the best interests of children and families are the centre of recommendations. They must be based on science with evidence for all to see,” Brown tweeted. “I am relieved to hear from Dr. (Lawrence) Loh that this mistake is being fixed and this flyer is being removed from circulation.”

Anna Miller, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Health, did not outright object to the guidelines but said that parents and guardians should take proper precautions if their child is exposed.

“The need for an individual to self-isolate if they have COVID-19 symptoms or may been exposed to COVID-19 is not new,” Miller told The Sun. “Recognizing it may be difficult for children to self-isolate from the rest of their household, parents and caregivers should take appropriate precautions when caring for children who either have COVID-19 or have been identified as a close contact of a confirmed case, and should seek additional guidance from their local public health unit.”

Peel Health tweeted Monday calling their guideline a mistake and assured parents that children need support in their home.

“We made a mistake,” the department tweeted Monday. “For children, we know that a caregiver may need to isolate with them to help with daily living, such as bathing, feeding, clothing and emotional support.”

Peel Health said it regretted the guidelines and would seek to change them immediately.

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