Media Monitoring Africa held their first Getting to Grips webinar on the 28th of April 2020, which looked at children’s understanding of Covid-19. Due to the current pandemic of the Coronavirus, MMA saw a need to create a series of webinars focusing on Covid-19 and children, in order to provide a platform where children can be given an understanding on what Covid-19 is and are also given a chance to ask any questions that they have about the pandemic to various experts.
Media Monitoring Africa Public and Skills development manager as well as the facilitator of the webinar Phakamile Khumalo took the audience through the aim of the Getting to Grips webinar and what it aims to achieve.
“The Getting to Grips webinar initiative is created by MMA to create media content to help children understand complicated issues that are faced in South Africa and to provide children with easy to understand content that they can be able to grasp and engage with to make informed decisions about issues affecting their lives. And also to ensure that they are leading at discussions like these”.
Beginning the discussion was 16-year-old Joy Fakude, representative of all the children, wanting to get a better understanding on what the “D” in Covid-19 stands for. “The D stands for a disease” said Prof Francois Venter who is a doctor working on infectious diseases and a Covid-19 expert.
He further added that there’s a virus switch in a human immune system, the virus may go through you and stay on the throat and you don’t notice but not necessarily the virus causes a disease but to some people it causes Covid-19, the CoronaVirus induced disease.
17-year-old Ofentse Khwutshwa wanted to know where Coronavirus originated from. “The CoronaVirus circulates in a lot of different species and also in humans too, there’s a lot of different kinds so this particular one seems to originate from bats” said Prof Venter
Prof Venter responded to a question from one of the learners on how one can explain to an 8-year-old what to do to avoid contracting the virus. He explained “The most important thing to keep in mind is that this virus is transmitted when you cough or breathe on someone when you are infected, the little droplets that you breathe got the virus in them, handshakes or when you touch a surface that the person with the virus touched, besides that its actually very difficult to catch it.”
He further spoke about the reason behind why people should avoid touching their faces which is when you shake someone’s hand and the virus is there, through the instincts of touching your face the virus gets through your upper airwaves, it jumps down your nostrils, your throat and just infects you that way and that’s why it is important to wash your hands every now and then.
He also spoke about the importance of telling elderly people to stay at home to avoid getting the Coronavirus since they are the ones at higher risks.
Prof Venter responded to a question on what are the alternatives for children living in areas where they don’t have running clean water to wash their hands. “As long as you have a cloth with soap and a little bit of water and keep it in a little like plastic it is very effective so that you can always wipe your hands.”
Joy Fakude wanted to get an understanding on what is new about the virus and what makes it different from other viruses. “It is very transmissible and very infectious, secondly the death rate on the max number of old people is very high. We’ve had some other viruses before they just burnt themselves out and they didn’t just spread out” he said.
Prof Venter responded to a question on the difference between Isolation and quarantine. He said “Isolation means when you have been touched by someone with CoronaVirus you will need to isolate even though you are not sure that you got it. While Quarantine is when you have the virus you have to be alone in order to protect other people from getting it which may take you up to 14 days”.
One of the learners wanted to know how far scientists are from finding the cure for CoronaVirus. He said “We are trying to find a vaccine, there’s a massive amount of research being done on that, which may take up to 8 months from getting the vaccine or probably longer than that. It is just a prevention not a cure”.
He further added that they are currently working on a drug that will be given to people to prevent them from getting the CoronaVirus just like how it is done with the Malaria drug.
Prof Venter responded to one of the questions on what it would take for people to be in Level 1 of lock down since we are still on level 5 and what needs to be done and if it will take a cure. He said “It’s not about a cure but having enough immune people in the community for the virus to not get to older people. The levels will be relaxed looking on how the rate will be going.”
He also spoke about making use of soap and water stated that it is the best and cheaper than sanitizers, washing hands regularly, wearing of masks and keeping physical distances do most of the work to avoid contracting the CoronaVirus.
One of the learners wanted to know how they can protect themselves from being sick in the classrooms since they share things. Prof Venter answered “It’s on you to work it out like washing your hands regularly or if you have a towel you can wipe it out or you don’t have to share at all. But one must be careful on how you become anxious about it, there are things that we just have to accept like being in a classroom.”
Ending the discussion children were asked how they felt about this crisis and their respond was that they are very worried about schooling, if it would still be the same and the economy, those parents who are bread winners who have lost their jobs.
The series of Getting to Grips webinar will continue for the coming weeks, getting different experts to help children get a better understand on complicated issues around South Africa and abroad.
Stay tuned for our next Getting to Grips Webinar!