A group of pediatricians is calling on the Quebec government to lift a list of COVID-19 restrictions that they claim shouldn’t apply to children.
In a letter to Premier Francois Legault, the physicians argue that a number measures, including two-metre social distancing, are impossible to enforce and even compromise children’s health.
“Kids should be allowed to be kids. That means at one point that they should be allowed to play. They should be allowed to interact,” said Dr. Marc Lebel, pediatric infectious disease specialist and president of Quebec’s association of pediatricians.
“It could hurt their development.”
In the open letter, the 12 pediatricians claim “scientific literature” over the past three months supports their call for a “readjustment of rules” for children of all ages.
They claim they are speaking on behalf of children who are “paying a disproportionate price” as a result of the measures, considering they’re hardly at risk of contracting and transmitting COVID-19.
Among the measures the physicians want abolished are the two-metre social-distancing and facial mask requirements for children under the age of 12. They want teachers and educators to use protective eye-wear instead of visors.
They’re also calling for all individual and team sports to start as soon as possible for children and teenagers and for educational materials and toys to be shared without having to be disinfected after each use.
“It doesn’t make sense to have some of these rules, especially in daycares,” said Lebel.
“If you have an 18 month old that is crying and nobody can touch him to to try to comfort him, I think that’s a big problem.”
Experts say they worry about the short and long-term effects on children and teenagers, psychologically and academically.
“Adolescents might drop out if they’re not stimulated,” said Lebel, whose association has been recommending a province-wide return to school since April.
The Association Québécoise des Centres de la Petite Enfance (AQCPE) has raised the issue in the past regarding PPE and workers, after a survey among CPE operators found that safety measures were bothersome for educators and served as a barrier for children. Pediatricians including Lebel insist children need close contact with educators and that includes seeing their facial expressions.
“We’re definitely in favour of having a conversation with public health in terms of finding solutions and avenues, maybe to ease up the rules for educators.” said Marie-Claude Lemieux, AQCPE director of public and government affairs.
“But we’re not in favour of ditching all those rules,” she said, noting that CPEs have been offering essential services since the start of the pandemic and have managed to avoid major outbreaks with the current measures in place.
On Monday evening, more than 2,500 people added their signature to the letter in an online petition titled ‘Stop the 2-metre rule for children‘.
Quebec’s public health director addressed the letter in a news conference on Monday afternoon claiming his government is considering making necessary adjustments. “We are also looking are the scientific litterature that they are looking at,” said Dr. Horracio Arruda.
“We already changed the camp ratios for this summer coming back to what it was before,” said Arruda. “We will do the work also in daycare centres and schools.”