In the days of COVID-19 pandemic, a warm message from the
Cyprus National Committee on Environment and Children’s Health
During these difficult times of the COVID-19 pandemic, we would like to express our gratitude to those who are at the forefront of the battle against the coronavirus, in particular doctors, nurses and paramedics, among which members of our Committee, the Vice President Dr. Andreas Hadjisavvas, Dr. Michael Anastasiades, Dr. Maro Solomou, Dr. Zena Zenonos, Dr. Panayiotis Yiallouros and Mrs. Georgia Christodoulou, who all work tirelessly to save lives and defeat the virus.
As our contribution, we are launching a special insert on our website titled “We stay at home and we are together from a distance; creatively and safely!”. Our goal, as always, remains to protect the physical and mental health of our children, now more than ever. We will provide you with valid information and prevention tools from reputable scientific bodies and official organizations.
We are convinced that this crisis will end, and we will become stronger, with new valuable experiences. The Cyprus National Committee on Environment and Children’s Health sends to you and your loved ones warm wishes. Be strong, stay healthy and safe, and stand vigilant guards, of your own health and especially that of our children. Our moto:
“We stay at home and we are together from a distance; creatively and safely!”.
Dr Stella Canna Michaelidou
Cyprus National Committee on Environment and Children’s Health
(1.) Informative Videos (in Greek) produced by the Cyprus Pedagogical Institute of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports and Youth, titled “Young children learn what the coronavirus is and how to protect themselves from it” and “Back to school, Staying Healthy” (for students of Primary and Secondary Education)
We congratulate the Pedagogical Institute as well as all those who worked on the project of creating the videos, both for the initiative and for the excellent results, and we warmly thank them for granting us permission to post them on our website.
The first video is titled ” Young children learn what the coronavirus is and how to protect themselves from it”. The second and third videos, titled “Back to School, Staying Healthy!” provide guidance to primary and secondary school students, respectively, on their return to school.
Watch them below:
(2.) COVID-19 – ANSES’s recommendations on food, shopping and cleaning
What precautions should I take when returning home from the shops? Does food need to be cooked to destroy the virus? Can I eat fruits and vegetables raw without any further preparation? ANSES examined the possibilities of the COVID-19 disease being transmitted via food, on the basis of the available scientific data. Here are our answers to the most frequently asked questions.
(ΑΝSES: French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety)
Can farm animals fall ill and infect us?
There is no evidence that farm animals, or the foods that are derived from them, play a role in the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19. Any transmission via food would therefore only be possible if the food had been contaminated by a patient or person infected with the virus, when handling it with dirty hands or via infectious droplets produced when coughing or sneezing.
Can eating contaminated food make us sick?
There is currently no scientific evidence to suggest that the virus can infect us through the digestive tract. However, the possibility of the respiratory tract becoming infected when chewing contaminated food cannot be completely ruled out. If you are ill, you absolutely must avoid handling food and cooking for others.
How can the virus be removed from fruits and vegetables?
Fruits and vegetables should be washed thoroughly after purchase, or before eating or cooking them. Clean water is sufficient, never use disinfectant or detergents such as bleach, as they can be toxic if they are not rinsed properly. It is not necessary to use white vinegar to rinse fruits and vegetables. After washing with clean water, wiping the food with a single-use paper towel helps remove any viral particles. These steps are especially important if the fruits and vegetables are to be eaten raw.
Can I eat fruits and vegetables raw without any further preparation? Or do they need to be cooked?
As mentioned in the previous answer, it is important to wash fruits and vegetables in clean water. You can also peel them, as you do with apples or pears.
For vegetables, note that cooking at 63°C – i.e. over a medium heat – for four minutes is enough to destroy any virus potentially present. There is no point in “overcooking” your food, unless this is called for by the recipe or your personal taste! Washing raw vegetables with clean water is sufficient to reduce the risk of transmission through cross-contamination – i.e. the risk of the virus being spread by contact with hands.
Do these hygiene rules also apply to packaging?
Packaging may have been contaminated by dirty hands. Even though the virus causing the disease cannot survive in the open air for more than three hours, you can take additional precautions by cleaning the packaging. This should be wiped with a damp cloth or single-use paper towel. Bleach is not necessary. For foods that are kept in the refrigerator, remove the packaging before storage whenever possible. Obviously, hands must be washed thoroughly before and after handling this packaging.
Is white vinegar effective for cleaning packaging?
It is effective for killing bacteria but probably less so for viruses. Studies have shown that white vinegar is ineffective at getting rid of more resistant viruses.
What precautions should I take when returning home from the shops?
First, you need to wash your hands. As long as your groceries do not need to be kept cool, you can leave them to sit for two or three hours after taking them home. For products that need to go in the refrigerator, such as milk or yoghurts, remove the outer packaging and clean the products with damp paper towels before storing. Remember to wash your hands again immediately afterwards.
Is it better to re-heat your bread?
Bread is baked at a high temperature during preparation, which eliminates all traces of viruses. When hygiene rules have been followed in the bakery (hands washed regularly and/or gloves worn when serving, bread placed inside bags, etc.), there is no risk of virus transmission. It is not necessary to re-heat your bread if all hygiene precautions have been taken.
Can COVID-19 be contracted through contact with contaminated surfaces?
Some studies carried out under conditions that differ greatly from those in the home have shown that the virus remains active for varying durations on inert surfaces. It can survive for up to 72 hours on plastic and stainless steel. It remains detectable for 24 hours on cardboard under the same experimental conditions. The risk of coming into contact with the virus by handling objects that have been contaminated by a carrier cannot therefore be theoretically ruled out, but it is low. This is why it’s important to follow certain rules: do not touch your face while shopping, wash your hands when you get home, and wipe all packaging with a damp paper towel.
What is the best way to clean potentially contaminated surfaces?
Potentially contaminated surfaces can be cleaned using household products to remove all traces of the virus. For example, you can use 70°C alcohol, which is highly effective, to disinfect door handles and computer or tablet keyboards. If you use bleach, handle this product with care as it is highly oxidising and caustic to the skin, mucous membranes and other materials.
Because your telephone is in direct contact with your hands and face, it can be a major vector for transmission of the virus. You can disinfect a smartphone screen using disinfectant wipes or paper towels soaked in household alcohol.
Addition from Cyprus Committee on Environment and Children’s Health: Virologists recommend soaking fruits and vegetables in light soap water for 1 hour and then rinse very well. This offers greater safety in any conditions.
(3.) Parenting in the time of COVID-19
In order to help parents interact constructively with their children during this time of confinement, the World Health Organization, Unicef, End Violence Against Children, Internet of Good Things, Parenting for Lifelong Health, USAID, Accelerate (Accelerating Achievement for Africa’s Adolescents Hub), and the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have come together, collaborating to produce the six following one-page tips for parents, that cover:
- Planning one-on-one time,
- Staying positive,
- Creating a daily routine,
- Avoiding bad behaviour,
- Managing stress, and
- Talking about COVID-19.
Additionally, the poster on the right, produced by the WHO provides useful recommendations on how to help children cope with the stress caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Source: World Health Organization
(4.) When and How to Wash Your Hands
Washing your hands is easy, and it’s one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of germs. Clean hands can stop germs from spreading from one person to another and throughout an entire community—from your home and workplace to childcare facilities and hospitals.
Follow these five steps every time.
- Wetyour hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.
- Latheryour hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
- Scrubyour hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
- Rinseyour hands well under clean, running water.
- Dryyour hands using a clean towel or air dry them.
Washing hands with soap and water is the best way to get rid of germs in most situations. If soap and water are not readily available, you can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. You can tell if the sanitizer contains at least 60% alcohol by looking at the product label.
Sanitizers can quickly reduce the number of germs on hands in many situations. However,
- Sanitizers do not get rid of all types of germs.
- Hand sanitizers may not be as effective when hands are visibly dirty or greasy.
- Hand sanitizers might not remove harmful chemicals from hands like pesticides and heavy metals.
How to use hand sanitizer
- Apply the gel product to the palm of one hand (read the label to learn the correct amount).
- Rub your hands together.
- Rub the gel over all the surfaces of your hands and fingers until your hands are dry. This should take around 20 seconds.
(5.) Guide on Safe Internet Connection, Especially for Children and Distance Learning
It’s great to be able to communicate now that we’re “staying home”. Technology helps us to stay connected even from afar. We learn the best possible way to do it… safely!
We are grateful that today’s technology allows us to work from home, that children are able to attend classes, and especially the fact that we can stay in touch with the people we love, even from a distance. It is very important for children to communicate with their grandparents and their loved ones who are “physically” away. This can be done safely, via WIRED video calls (through SKYPE, Viber, Messenger, WhatsApp, Zoom, FaceTime, etc.).
In this guide, emphasis is given to wired internet communication, as the safest and most appropriate option for children. However, information is also given on how the wireless can be used in combination with essential precautionary measures.
Wireless communication is very convenient. However, we should use it with caution, applying PROTECTIVE measures, especially for children for whom wired internet connection is highly recommended. Through wired connection the child will be able to surf the internet and learn remotely, quickly and safely without being exposed to the harmful electromagnetic radiation (EMF/RF) that is emitted either by the device, or the router (further information and scientific evidence you may find in the bibliography listed on our website at the following link). We therefore apply good practices and use the internet and electronic communication safely and reasonably according to the age, especially now that we are at home. We put our health and especially children’s health above any “convenience”. We simply need to connect to the internet directly via an ETHERNET cable, and disable the Wi-Fi and mobile data, which must always be turned off when not in use.
Ethernet cables up to 50 meters long
Remember that wired internet via Ethernet is more efficient than wireless Wi-Fi or mobile data. Because with the wired connection we have:
- much faster connection speeds,
- more reliable signal, without interruptions
- better data security
But above all it is SAFE, since protects you and especially your children from the electromagnetic radiation (EMF/RF) (see the Declaration of Nicosia 2017, the scientific bibliography, the videos, and the guides of the Cyprus National Committee on Environment and Children’s Health at www.paidi.com.cy). For the above reasons, apply wired technology in your home as much as possible. Make sure your child’s laptop, tablet and computer are connected to the internet through wired connection for distance learning.
A. HOW TO CONNECT TO THE INTERNET THROUGH WIRED CONNECTION:
- Connect directly to your provider’s signal via Ethernet and turn off the Wi-Fi of your home, i.e. the antennas on your router/modem. Your internet provider’s technical service can guide you through the process. Always remember to turn off all wireless antennas (mobile data, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth) on your computer, mobile phone or tablet. The wired connection DOES NOT AUTOMATICALLY DISABLE THE WIRELESS ANTENNAS e.g. Wi-Fi, etc.
- The best solution is to use an existing internal ETHERNET networking. For new homes under construction it is advisable to plan ahead an internal wired network. that branches throughout the house (install cabling).
To connect multiple devices to a Router at the same time, use a Network Switch or Network splitter that allows you to expand your wired network by connecting multiple Ethernet cables.
3. If the above two options cannot be applied, then we have no other alternative but to branch the signal through the electrical line of the home by using the POWERLINE network adapters. This option is an emergency solution with one reservation, because like all other electrical appliances, the powerline adapters create “dirty electricity”. This, however, can be limited (see below) and does not compare to the health impact associated with the passive exposure (from the Router) and especially the much higher direct/active exposure of the user & the passive exposure for anyone who is close to those using 4G, or Wi-Fi or close to the Wi-Fi routers.
The wired Ethernet connection from the router to any room
– connection via POWERLINE adapters
Based on the above, it is recommended to:
- Purchase a simple type of twin powerline adapters-without a Wi-Fi option. They are safer and cheaper, at the price of app. 50 euros. Powerline adapters that allow for the connection of two or more devices are also available on the market.
- Use Ethernet wire of such length that allows to use the connected device at distance from the №2 powerline adapter, preferably more than 2 metres away from it.
- If a powerline adapter is in a bedroom, it is advisable to remove the socket or disconnect it at night, a practice that must be applied with all electrical appliances in the bedroom.
- By using wired connection, in combination with Wi-Fi deactivation, you can be confident that you create an oasis of reduced exposure to electromagnetic radiation for your family, while enjoying the advancements of technology in the most efficient way and with a stable and uninterrupted network connection.
However, if you choose to use a wireless connection, you must apply the necessary PROTECTIVE (PROPHYLACTIC) measures and especially to make use of the “ON” and “OFF” buttons (activation/deactivation of the Wi-Fi) in order to reduce the exposure to radiation and its effects as much as possible. And remember that mobile phones and other wireless devices ALWAYS EMMIT EMF/RF RADIATION, EVEN WHEN NOT IN USE!
- Only turn on the Wi-Fi, mobile data and Bluetooth for as long as are absolutely necessary and turn them off systematically when not in use, and definitely at night. This tactic applies to both routers and Wi-Fi or mobile data applications.
- AVOID OR AT LEAST DRASTICALLY LIMIT THE USE OF WIRELESS INTERNET AND OTHER WIRELESS DEVICES BY CHILDREN
- Keep a distance of at least 5 meters between the workplace and the Wi-Fi Router, and make sure that the laptop and other devices are not placed on the lap but instead on a table as far away from the body as possible.
- Remember to keep children away from you, and especially not to hold them in your arms when you use wireless communication and wireless internet. Passive exposure is greater and more dangerous for them than in adults.
Image source: www.freepik.com – Baby photo created by javi_indy
- Before giving devices (tablets/mobile phones) to children switch all into flight mode and deactivated all antennas e.g. Wi-Fi, Bluetooth connections. Download movies, songs, etc. to your device so that children watch or listen to them in flight mode with all antennas turned off.
- For older children, try as much as possible to enable WIRED connections via ETHERNET for distance learning.
- Depending on children’s age SET BOUNDARIES regarding the time children spend with screens and electronic media. Instructions are provided by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), which has prepared relevant tools to help you (more information at the following link). AAP proposed:
- Zero time for children under the age of two, with the sole exception of a short Skype (a short video call, preferably wired) with loved ones,
- Up to 30 minutes for preschoolers.
4. Limit or avoid “electronic entertainment” and electronic games for children, to avoid behavioral problems, addiction and dependence.
5. Choose books, board and other games, music, exercise, dance and especially enjoy shared activities with your children.
6. Watch together with your children the two videos of the Cyprus National Committee on Environment and Children’s Health one for children and one for teenagers, and those of other organizations (such as the following: “A Little Chat” and “The Glow”).
- Avoid children’s exposure to screens for at least one hour before bedtime and completely remove or disable all wireless devices from their bedroom.
E. PROTECTION OF PREGNANT WOMEN
Pregnant women should especially protect the fetus and afterwards the baby, and make the most out of wired communication and wired internet. Below you can watch the video (produced by the Cyprus National Committee on Environment and Children’s Health).
- Your sleeping area is your shelter, that must provide your body with important opportunities for growth, detoxification and damage repair at the cellular level. As scientifically proven, these biological processes are affected by light, “dirty electricity”, by screens, but especially by the pulses of electromagnetic radiation. Due to that it is important to turn off and fully deactivate all devices in the bedroom, especially the wireless ones, and do not charge your cell phone in the bedroom, even if it is switched into flight mode.
- Clock, alarm, camera, video making and watching pre-downloaded movies and other applications can work in flight mode. However, some “smart” devices cannot be turned off, therefore you should seriously reconsider the use of a device that constantly emits radiation (such as specific smartwatch models, Fitness bands, etc.).
- Use a landline for phone calls, especially for children, and forward mobile phone calls to landline phones.
Source of image: freepik – created by asier_relampagoestudio
- Remember that distance is our ally because radiation exposure decreases exponentially as the distance increases. Consequently, stay away from wireless devices, whether you use them or not. Use wired hands free, the loud speaker, do not place the phone in pockets or near the chest but instead in a bag, and do not place the laptop on the lap, but on a table instead.
(6.) “Restrict Screens, No Cell Phones And Minimize Wireless Radiation For Education During COVID-19 Quarantine: Russia Releases Recommendations For Children’s Protection”
Recommendations of the Research Institute of Hygiene and Protection for Children’s Health, National̆ Medical Research Center Children’s Health̆ of the Ministry of Health of the Russian Federation and the Russian National Committee for Protection Against Non-ionizing Radiation (RusCNIRP):
V.R. Kuchma* Director of the Research Institute of Hygiene and Protection Children’s Health FGAU “National̆ Medical Research Center for Children’s Health̆”, Ministry of Health, Russian Federation Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, manager of multidisciplinary Research program to Ensure safe for Children’s Health Digital Educational Technologies.
O.A. Grigoryev, Dr of Biological Sciences, Chairman of the Russian National Committee for Protection Against Non-ionizing Radiation and member of the scientific advisory Committee on Non-ionizing Radiation of the World Health Organization
Digital Environment Security Distance Learning for Children Under 18
These conditions with temporary restrictions on school attendance are designed for children and their parents, for grandparents and all who help children study at home using digital technology during the forced restrictions on learning at school and other educational institutions.
- For work of children under 18 years old at home in the distance learning mode it is recommended to primarily use personal computers and laptops connected to the Internet via a wired network. Using wireless network distance from the WiFi point to the workplace should be not less than 5 meters.
- The keyboard of the computer (laptop) must be disinfected antiseptic daily before starting work. Monitor also needed treat with an antiseptic agent from the workplace.
- Before using the keyboard, you need to wash your hands as a child, so and an adult who helps him.
- To reduce the risk of visual impairment and musculoskeletal disorders systems must be provided working at the computer (laptop) child comfortable workplace (the height of the table and chair should correspond to the growth indicators of the child), exclude screen illumination monitor.
- The main source of light at the workplace of the child should be located side of the screen (not behind the screen and not from the back side of the screen). The brightness of the source should approximately correspond to the brightness screen.
- Using tablets for distance learning at home conditions permissible by adolescents over 15 years of age. Before use tablet, wash your hands and wipe the screen with a disinfectant means (wet towel). The location of the WiFi point should be on a distance of at least 5 m from the student’s workplace. The tablet is placed on table on a stand at an angle of 30 ° , the distance from the screen to the pupil’s eyes is not less than 50cm. It is necessary to exclude work with a laptop or tablet on knees, in hands, lying and the like.
- For all age groups up to 18 years, it is necessary to completely exclude the use of smartphones for educational purposes (reading, searching information).
- For all age categories for reading, completing tasks It is recommended to use mainly ordinary books, notebooks.
- Children under 6 years old must completely exclude the use of any computer equipment for educational purposes at home.
- Children aged 6 to 12 are advised to minimize the use of computer equipment for educational purposes at home conditions.
Total the duration of all types of on-screen activities for children of this age group should not exceed 2 hours per day (including viewing TV).
The routine should be based on a one-to-three schedule for ages 6 to 8 years (for every 10 minutes of work 30 minutes of rest) and “One to two” for ages over 8
and up to 12 years (for every 10 minutes work – 20 minutes of rest).
- For children aged 12 to 18, the following regimen is recommended use of computer technology: “one to two” for ages older 12 years and up to 15 years
(for every 30 minutes of work – 60 minutes of rest) and “one to one ”for children over 15 years old and under 18 years old (for every 45 minutes of work – 45
minutes of rest).
The total duration of all types of screen activities for children of this age group, including viewing TV should not exceed 3.5-4 hours per day.
- For the prevention of visual fatigue is necessary during the break perform gymnastics for the eyes, for the prevention of general fatigue – warm-up (bends, turns
of the body, squats, etc.)
- If necessary to use headphones, limit continuous use to no more than an hour at a volume of not more than 60%.
- It is necessary to ventilate the room where classes are held before starting classes (at least 15 minutes) and after each hour of work.
- Do not use tablets and smartphones for educational purposes outside premises (in the park, on the playground and similar places).
Recommendations are based on data from a multicenter program of research to ensure children’s safe digital educational technologies of the Research Institute of Hygiene and Health children “NRC Children’s Health” and the Russian National Committee for Protection Against Non-ionizing Radiation, as well as using recommendations World Health Organization and world best practices for hygiene of the digital educational environment for children.
(7.) Children’s story book released to help children and young people cope with COVID-19
Source: World Health Organization
A new story book that aims to help children understand and come to terms with COVID-19 has been produced by a collaboration of more than 50 organizations working in the humanitarian sector, including the World Health Organization, the United Nations Children’s Fund, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and Save the Children.
With the help of a fantasy creature, Ario, “My Hero is You, How kids can fight COVID-19!” explains how children can protect themselves, their families and friends from coronavirus and how to manage difficult emotions when confronted with a new and rapidly changing reality.
The book – aimed primarily at children aged 6-11 years old – is a project of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee Reference Group on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Emergency Settings, a unique collaboration of United Nations agencies, national and international nongovernmental organizations and international agencies providing mental health and psychosocial support in emergency settings.
During the early stages of the project, more than 1700 children, parents, caregivers and teachers from around the world shared how they were coping with the COVID-19 pandemic. The input was invaluable to script writer and illustrator Helen Patuck and the project team in making sure that the story and its messages resonated with children from different backgrounds and continents.
In order to reach as many children as possible, the book will be widely translated, with six language versions released today and more than 30 others in the pipeline. It is being released as both an online product and audio book.