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What children want to know about coronavirus

Straight from the playground - here are the tough questions kiwi kids want answered about Covid-19.

The girls and boys from Churton Park School in Wellington put their tough questions to us about coronavirus. We answered them in consultation with Dr Nikki Turner, director of the Immunisation Advisory Centre.

Q: Why is everyone making such a big deal about it? Juliet, 9.

A: You're right Juliet, everyone is talking about Covid-19. It's even all over Tik Tok! It's a pandemic which means that this new virus has spread to a lot of countries. There are some health risks particularly for elderly people and those with medical conditions, which is why people are worried. There aren't many cases in New Zealand right now but we are expecting more. A global organisation called the World Health Organisation (WHO) has their top scientists and doctors giving us advice so together we can slow the spread and eventually stop it.

Q: What is the best type of hand soap to use when washing our hands? Jessica, 9.

A: The soap you've got right now! But it's really important that you wash your hands for 20 seconds. That might seem like ages for most of us who are pretty lazy with our handwashing. You can sing Happy Birthday in English once, and then in Te Reo once while you do it! Don't forget to clean around your thumbs and you also need to dry your hands properly afterwards.

Hand washing
Hand washing

It's important to wash your hands with soap for 20 seconds and dry them well.

Q: Can your pets catch Covid-19, and if they can, will we catch it from them? James, 9.

A: You can still cuddle your pets because it's highly unlikely that our furry friends will get this virus.

Q: Is Covid-19 going to affect our economy and our lives as children? Piper, 9.

A: There is a lot we don't know right now. Some businesses around the world have had to close temporarily to protect their staff and their customers. Music festivals and other big events are either being postponed or cancelled. Leaders in New Zealand are doing their best to provide extra funding and support to New Zealanders and businesses.

Q: Is Covid-19 worse than malaria or the SARS virus? Alex, 9.

A: No, it's not worse than malaria. Surprisingly, the tiny mosquito which carries malaria is one of the most dangerous animals in the world.


To prevent malaria, UNICEF provides mosquito nets to protect children while they sleep

Covid-19 is serious because it is so new to the world and we don't have a vaccine or any medicine to cure it yet. SARS was probably more serious, but did not spread around the world. These two diseases affect your breathing and are transferred from person to person. Right now, scientists are working hard to develop a vaccine for Covid-19.

Q: Is it alright to joke about Covid-19? Jamie, 9.

A: Humour is often used to get us through difficult times but we need to remember to be kind to each other. We are lucky in New Zealand. We still have food and water, our friends, family, and our cuddly pets. It's always good to laugh but remember it's never fun being sick. It's a scary time for many people, particularly older people and people who already have medical problems.

Q: I have asthma, will Covid-19 affect me more if I catch it?  Charlotte, 9.

A: Older people with asthma are more at risk. There is still a lot we don't know about this disease but children are less likely to get sick. Make sure you take your preventer though, so you stay healthy.

Q: Is it true that girls are less likely to get Covid-19?  Florence, 8.

A: Some scientists say that men and women are both getting Covid-19 equally, but that the disease is more serious for men. But this is not clear as both men and women can get it severely. Have you heard of epidemiologists, microbiologists and infectious disease specialists? These talented people are studying the disease so they can help prevent people from getting sick and, also treat patients.


Yuanyuan (5) peers out the window of a hospital in Wuhan, China. Both her parents and grandparents contracted Covid-19, Yuanyuan did not contract the virus.

Q: How long will Covid-19 last?  Emma, 9.

A: We really don't know because it's such a new disease, but we can all work together and try our best to reduce its effect. We will eventually have a vaccine. Many people will recover before then and get their own protection (immunity).

Q: How do new viruses happen?  Charlotte 9.

A: Viruses like Covid-19 are often traced back to wild animals or birds. These viruses change and then infect humans. This is very rare, but sometimes happens when animals, birds and humans live or mix close together.

What does the virus look like to kids?
What does the virus look like to kids?

“This is a virus, and these hammers are striking it,” explains 5-year-old Yuanyuan from Wuhan, China.

Q: When will there be a vaccine for it? Sophie, 8.

A: Lots of people around the world in many countries are racing to make a vaccine. In fact, in a few countries they are already trialling and testing a vaccine. But it's a long process and it will take at least a year before it is safe to use widely.

Q: If your siblings sneeze and cough, and don't cover their mouths and noses with an elbow will you get sick? Sophie, 8.

A: Yes, you could get sick, just like you can with other viruses such as colds. Now is a good time to ask your siblings not to sneeze on you, and maintain a safe distance of two metres! Everyone needs to cover their cough or sneeze with a flexed elbow or tissue, then throw away the tissue into a closed bin.

Please donate now and help UNICEF respond to the outbreak. Anything you can afford to give will go a long way in supporting vulnerable communities.