26 Mar 2020

Coronavirus: Frontline doctors prepare for 'what's coming' by sending kids away

6:31 am on 26 March 2020

Some doctors are sending their children away from home during the lockdown as they struggle with childcare while working on the Covid-19 frontline

Iv Drip in hospital corridor

Photo: 123rf

Some worried about who would care for their children, and others about spreading the disease to their family.

The unprecedented restrictions to curb the spread of Covid-19 will last for at least 28 days, only businesses deemed essential will remain open, and those who flout the rules have been warned they will face consequences.

See all RNZ Covid-19 news

Auckland GP Marcia Wallace's children are going away with her husband, a primary school teacher, to stay at the home of relatives.

Walker is worried about evidence from overseas that doctors are at a higher risk of the disease.

Each day after work she changed clothes before she left, then showered outside her house with a bleach solution before she came in, she said.

But it has been hard to keep a safe distance from each other with a seven-year-old and a ten-year-old.

"You come home from work and the first thing they want to do when you throw the door open is to come in and give you a cuddle. When you are distracted and tired after a long day it's very easy to forget that social distancing still needs to happen in your own house," she said.

Wallace says the house was quiet now, but she would use regular face-to-face phone calls to keep in touch with her family.

Another doctor said she and her doctor husband were leaving their high school-aged children at home alone.

"We feel guilty about asking others to help in case we expose them. We can't ask grandparents, our childcare options are non-existent, and we are working extreme hours preparing for what's coming and worried we are going to get sick and possibly die like our colleagues overseas," she said.

Another whose husband is also a hospital doctor said they were sending her children to stay with her brother.

"Unfortunately he lives two hours away so yesterday I went home from work and packed up my children and shipped them off to my brother's house," she said.

It was sad to be apart and she knew that would get worse over the coming weeks but she felt better that she would not potentially be bringing the virus home.

  • If you have symptoms of the coronavirus, call the NZ Covid-19 Healthline on 0800 358 5453 (+64 9 358 5453 for international SIMs)

The government announced approved childcare companies can look after the children of essential workers in their homes under strict protocols.

Carers would be allowed to work only in that home, and must stay away if sick.

Some of the doctors said they were shocked to see people socialising and shopping so closely over the past few days and hoped the complacency would stop at the lockdown.

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