I am writing this letter to raise my significant concerns on the impact of COVID-19 on the long-term mental health and overall well-being of children. It is 10 weeks since schools closed and all social activities outside school were stopped. 

Government has not yet focussed meaningful attention at the press conferences on this very important topic, nor has any guidance been provided about what we, as parents, can plan for our children this summer. Are children to remain isolated throughout the summer until school returns? What happens to children’s long-term mental health when they don’t play with friends for months on end? Statistically, they are the least likely to be impacted directly by the disease, but indirectly I wonder if it won’t be a very different story. 

Government has indicated that it has a strategy for reopening the economy, but I have heard no discussion on how this is possible for families where both parents work or for single parents, given that nurseries, nannies, other childcare professionals and camps are not permitted. Sadly, there is no magic childcare fairy who can look after children whilst parents work, whether from home or outside the home. How can the economy reopen without this critical topic being discussed in detail at the press conferences?  

I take my hat off to the government for their initial bold, decisive moves and how they have protected the residents and citizens of the Cayman Islands. However, I would now like to see a multi-pronged phased plan from government addressing all sectors of society – of course, protecting the elderly and vulnerable, but also explicitly addressing the needs of children and, ultimately, women, who even in 2020 still tend to be the primary carers. Otherwise, will it actually be children and women who bear the indirect long-term impact of COVID-19?

All this brings me to the critical word – HOPE. I hope that government has a detailed plan for our children and that government will share it with us. I hope that government continues to listen and learn from the best of what other countries are doing and adopt those measures and/or flex our strategies here in an agile, sensible way, not sticking with a strategy simply because it has been announced.

We need hope for our economy, hope for the elderly, hope for the vulnerable, hope for parents and, most of all, hope for our children. If we, the responsible adults and government, don’t fight for the best possible strategy for our children now, they could be living with the mental-health impacts of COVID-19 for decades longer than us! 

Alexandra Nolan
A concerned mother, citizen and worker 

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