CORONAVIRUS

The Hon. J.S.L. DAWKINS (15:21): My question is directed to the Minister for Health and Wellbeing. Will the minister update the council on public education initiatives in response to the COVID-19 pandemic?

The Hon. S.G. WADE (Minister for Health and Wellbeing) (15:21): I thank the honourable member for his question. Coronavirus and the disease resulting from it, COVID-19, have already had a tragic impact directly on over two million people worldwide and many more indirectly. 

The pandemic is causing significant distress, and the Marshall Liberal government, along with the commonwealth, has committed additional funding to support mental health services at this time. Children and their parents need particular support. Unfortunately, many children are now familiar with the terms COVID-19 or coronavirus. The Women's and Children's Health Network, through the Women's and Children's Hospital, has already had children with COVID-19 as inpatients during this pandemic and has provided exceptional care to them.

As part of this government's strong plan to respond to COVID-19, the hospital will have enhanced ICU and HDU capacity and is training 80 nurses in critical care, but the front line is not the only work we have undertaken for children. Children who are not sick may nonetheless be uncertain, sad or anxious as the work circumstances of their parents or caregivers change. There may be changes to child care and school arrangements and they may no longer be able to go into the playground on weekends as they used to.

In many cases, children will have limited or no physical contact with their grandparents or grandparent-type figures they previously had as a feature of their lives. Aware of these challenges, SA Health has developed a booklet to support children to understand coronavirus. It is called Hi. This is coronavirus. The booklet explains what coronavirus is, some of the symptoms it can cause and that COVID-19 will make some people a little bit sick and others very sick and needing to go to hospital.

The book is available online, and I would encourage parents to access it for their children. As much as it is a book for young children, it has messages we can all do to remember on a daily basis: social distancing, practising good cough and sneeze etiquette, washing your hands thoroughly with soap and water, staying home if you are sick, cleaning your house, especially door handles and toys, and trying not to touch your face, bite your nails or pick your nose.

The book also explains that things might be a little different for a while. We can't go out to play with friends or to play sport. It tells children that adults may be feeling sad and that we can discuss our feelings together. It is essential that we realise that this pandemic is having mental health impacts on our community and that we all need to talk about it.

The book concludes by explaining that following these prevention measures will reduce the risk of you and people you love becoming sick and that, by doing this, eventually things will return to normal and we will be able to play with friends and family. The book can be downloaded from the SA Health website. It's a valuable resource and I commend it to all South Australian families.