The following is a press release from UNICEF, the thoughts and opinions in this article are their own.
As Thailand faces the third and most severe wave of COVID-19 with infections among children on the rise, UNICEF Thailand and the Department of Children and Youth, have adapted UNICEF’s global guidelines to support the Thai authorities and all relevant stakeholders in minimizing family separation and promoting family unity when implementing COVID-19 quarantine and isolation measures.
Released earlier this year and now available in Thai, UNICEF’s guideline “Children, Isolation, and Quarantine: Preventing Family Separation and Other Child Protection Considerations during the COVID-19 Pandemic” advises decision-makers and health and child protection workers on ensuring children’s physical safety and mental well-being when implementing the quarantine and isolation of children infected with or at risk of contracting COVID-19.
In addition to public health considerations, policies and decisions to quarantine or isolate children who tested positive for COVID-19 must take into account the negative consequences of family separation on children, including stress, anxiety, and fear as well as a higher risk of exposure to violence, abuse, neglect, and exploitation. These decisions must be made on a case-by-case basis based on their medical conditions, potential risks, and the situation at home, the guideline states.
“UNICEF welcomes the leadership of the Department of Children and Youth and the Department of Health in taking critical and timely steps towards ensuring children’s well-being and best interests based on the principle of keeping families together, as recommended in UNICEF guidelines,” said Kyungsun Kim, UNICEF Representative for Thailand.
“Children’s overall physical and mental wellbeing, in addition to protection, must be a primary consideration in all policies and decisions on COVID-19 measures for health and safety. Separation of child and parent or primary caregiver when either one has tested positive for COVID-19 may worsen the psychological toll on children as well as expose them to greater risks of neglect or violence. No child should be left on their own and families must remain together wherever possible.” Kim said.
If a child must be quarantined, isolated, or treated at a hospital or hospital (Thailand’s field hospitals, their own word-editor), a parent or caregiver must be allowed to accompany them, the guideline advises. If not possible, the child must be placed in a facility close to their family and allowing for regular communication. The child and family’s contact details and information must be recorded before any separation takes place.
Health workers and volunteers must also be trained in child protection and age-appropriate and nurturing child care, such as identifying signs of stress and providing psychological first aid, to help ensure children’s physical and mental well-being at hospitals and hospitels.
If a parent or caregiver must be quarantined, isolated, or treated at a hospital or hospitel, children should stay with a relative or responsible guardian in agreement with the parent or caregiver. If a child has been left on their own, neighbors or witnesses must immediately contact the government hotline 1300 to help ensure the child’s safety and the provision of appropriate services and living arrangements.
“UNICEF stands ready to support policymakers and health and child protection workers to refer to the guidelines developed in the Thai language. We urge everyone involved to do all they can to protect children and put their interests first while fulfilling public health safety measures,” said Kim.