With the start of the school year and as COVID-19 deaths among the elderly continue to rise, grandparents want clear guidelines on whether to remain on self-imposed lockdown or resume regular activities, like caring for grandchildren.

With just days to go till the start of the school year, grandparents are facing the dilemma of again cutting themselves off from their beloved grandchildren and putting their children, who might need childcare, in a bind or trading off protecting their health.

“In the first few months, when we had just over 20 cases, schools closed and those of us over 65 were told we were vulnerable and to avoid going outside or having contact with anyone who did not live in our home,” Nanniet Malta founder and president Philip Chircop told Times of Malta.

“While, previously, we were guided by both the government and the health authorities, now that the situation is worse, seeing case numbers go up at an alarming rate and ever more frequent deaths... we have been left to fend for ourselves.”

The reopening of schools placed grandparents in a tight corner, fearing that, as children continue to come into contact with more and more people, the risk of bringing infection home was weighing down on those who equally did not want to have to cut contact with their grandchildren, Chircop said.

“It is a bitter pill to swallow, to shut yourself off from the people you love the most. However, we are genuinely concerned and fear for our health,” he said.

“We are also saddened to see our grandchildren bored to tears at home and our children being driven up the wall trying to keep them occupied while trying to strike a balance with their jobs. It is an unfortunate situation any way you cut it but we should not be made to gamble with our lives.

“Many of us are keenly aware that our children’s careers would suffer if they could not lean on us for childcare, so the situation really needs to be looked at thoroughly.

“Not all parents are willing to send their child back to school right now and not all grandparents are sure they will be able to look after the children if they are physically present at school,” Chircop argued.

Educators and the authorities are currently locking horns on whether schools should reopen as scheduled.

The health and education authorities insist that children must return to classrooms or risk slipping back further academically. However, teachers and parents are not convinced that mitigation measures are sufficient to keep children and families safe, given the rate at which COVID-19 is currently spreading.

“If we are going to be part of this system of childcare, then we deserve to know the risks and what the best for safeguarding our health,” Chircop said.

Maltese research that was presented as part of the International Survey of Children’s Subjective Well-being found that 16 per cent of Maltese children live in a home with a grandparent, with Malta ranking 20th of the 33 countries surveyed.

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