New federal data confirmed school, playground and rink closures negatively affected more Canadian schoolchildren than the pandemic.
"Lockdowns have been implemented across Canada," the Public Health Agency wrote in a data blog Impacts Of The Covid-19 Pandemic On Canadian Children. "These measures have been key to help curb the spread of COVID-19, but at the same time they have significantly altered Canadian families’ daily life." The Agency cited "significant disruptions" to daily life for the 99.9 percent of children who were never hospitalized with COVID-19, according to Blacklock’s.
Of a total of 8,139,512 children of all ages nationwide a total of 1,388 were hospitalized with COVID-19 to date. Only 165 of those hospitalized were treated at intensive care units, with a total of fourteen deaths. In Ontario, the only province to publish data for children under 14, a total of 141 were hospitalized from the pandemic outbreak.
The Agency said lockdowns negatively affected more children, especially boys and girls diagnosed with cognitive, behavioural or emotional disabilities. "Province-wide or regional lockdowns that ensued early on during the pandemic resulted in significant disruptions in children’s schooling with most having to adjust to an online learning experience," wrote staff.
Agency data showed of parents surveyed across Canada, mainly mothers, 43 percent said they were "very" or "extremely" concerned about their children’s mental health. The rate was 61 percent for parents of children with disabilities.
A majority, 52 percent, said they were "extremely" worried about their children’s loneliness. The rate was 63 percent for parents of children with disabilities. Findings were based on Statistics Canada questionnaires with 32,000 parents of children 14 and younger.
"The vast majority of parents, about nine in ten, reported their children engaged in screen time at home either daily or almost every day," said Impacts. "While a large proportion of parents reported concerns about their children’s screen time, more parents – close to three quarters – who have children with cognitive, behavioural or emotional disabilities reported they were 'very' or 'extremely' concerned with the amount of screen time their children engaged in."
More than a third of parents said they were also "very" or "extremely" worried about their children’s physical inactivity due to closures of playgrounds and loss of school sports. "More than half of the parents, 59 percent, reported they were very or extremely concerned about their children’s school year success," wrote staff.
Cabinet last August 26 budgeted $2 billion in funding for provincial and territorial departments of education to Covid-proof reopened classrooms under a Safe Return To Class Fund. The Public Health Agency had called it essential that schools reopen.
Dr. Theresa Tam, chief public health officer, previously told reporters, "Young people for their mental and physical health, we need to get them back to education as safely as possible," adding: "We know children generally experienced mild symptoms if they do become infected." Data showed of 274,021 children of all ages who contracted COVID-19 99.5 percent did not require hospital care.