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Coronavirus: Saskatchewan NDP Leader Ryan Meili takes kids’ questions on COVID-19

Ryan Meili, Saskatchewan's leader of the Opposition, took questions from kids about the novel coronavirus, also known as COVID-19.
Ryan Meili, Saskatchewan's leader of the Opposition, took questions from kids about the novel coronavirus, also known as COVID-19. Connor O'Donovan / Global News

Seven-year-old Benson in Regina wants to know why the new coronavirus means every single sport is cancelled.

Saskatchewan Opposition Leader Ryan Meili took the question during a livestreamed “press conference for kids” Monday morning, in which he heard from the province’s children about COVID-19.

READ MORE: Saskatchewan reports 14 new COVID-19 cases, bringing total to 66

“I think there’s a whole lot of grown-ups that are wondering the same thing,” Meili responded, before explaining the risks of player travel and large gatherings of fans.

Meili, a medical doctor, got the idea from Erna Solberg, Norway’s prime minister, who recently held a kids-only news conference in which she said: “it’s OK to be scared.”

“It’s hard for them to process all the changes — not going to school [and] the fears associated with the virus,” Meili told reporters at a separate media availability.
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READ MORE: ‘It’s OK to be scared,’ Norway PM says at kids-only coronavirus briefing

Children have been told they can’t go to school, visit their grandparents or go out in public spaces they once enjoyed. Meili said they’re being asked to make “huge behaviour changes,” and political leaders should make those adjustments easier.

“We really need to, in Saskatchewan, right now be stepping up both in the actions we make as political leaders, but also the way we speak to each other,” Meili said.

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Similarily, during his Sunday news conference, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke directly to Canada’s kids.

“Thank you for helping your parents work from home, for sacrificing your usual day, for doing math class around the kitchen table and for trusting science,” Trudeau said.

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Trudeau said he will have more to say to Canadian children soon, so “stay tuned.”

READ MORE: How to talk to kids about the novel coronavirus without scaring them

Megan Adams Lebell is a registered psychologist with Wildflowers Children’s Therapy in Regina, which provides services for children up to 18 — currently via video link.

She recommends adults keep the information short, clear and age-appropriate for children.

“Make sure you’re talking to them in a way that’s calm and factual, and that you’re relaxed because kids are very sensitive to what we’re feeling,” Adams Lebell said.

Adults should aim to strike a balance between keeping kids informed about the realities of COVID-19 without oversharing details, Adams Lebell said.

“Allowing kids to feel like they’re part of the conversation and that they’re being valued and that their feelings and their understanding of things are being considered is a really helpful thing to do,” she said.

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are asked to self-isolate for 14 days in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others.

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Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. And if you get sick, stay at home.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.