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Children have been largely overlooked during the COVID-19 pandemic; thankfully the majority of them get mild or even no symptoms if they catch the virus. Much of the discussion around the role of children in the pandemic has been about how they may spread the virus.
However, over time there has been a growing body of evidence that suggests that a proportion of children may develop long COVID, whether or not they had any symptoms when they actually contracted the virus.
Long COVID in adults is defined as signs and symptoms that develop during or following an infection consistent with COVID-19, continue for more than 12 weeks and are not explained by an alternative diagnosis.
So far there is no medical definition of long COVID in children but support groups and researchers say there may be up to 100 symptoms, including fatigue, “brain fog”, muscle aches, pain, gastrointestinal problems, nausea, dizziness, seizures, hallucinations and testicular pain. The cause of these symptoms is poorly understood, although findings suggest an ongoing immune reaction, after the virus has cleared, plays a part.
A study in Italy looked at 129 children aged between six and 16 years, diagnosed with COVID‐19 between March and November 2020. Some 96 of them had symptoms of COVID-19 during the acute infection phase, while 33 had no symptoms at all but tested positive. The study found that 42.6 percent of the children still had symptoms more than 60 days post-infection. Symptoms like fatigue, muscle and joint pain, headache, insomnia, respiratory problems and palpitations were particularly frequent.
A similar case study was carried out in Sweden, focusing on a smaller group of five children aged from nine to 15. All five children had fatigue, dyspnoea (laboured breathing), heart palpitations or chest pain, and four had headaches, difficulties concentrating, muscle weakness, dizziness and sore throats six to eight months after the initial infection.
A recent report from the UK’s Office for National Statistics estimates that 12.9 per cent of UK children aged two to 11, and 14.5 per cent of children aged 12 to 16, still have symptoms five weeks after their initial infection with COVID-19. Almost 500,000 UK children have tested positive for COVID-19 since March 2020.
More research is needed but as the debate around vaccinating children against COVID-19 rages, it is important to acknowledge as part of that discussion the growing body of evidence that children appear to develop symptoms beyond the initial infection and these symptoms can be debilitating.
The lack of knowledge in this area is also a source of frustration for families who are presenting children to hospitals and GP surgeries with vague and varied symptoms and being turned away without adequate treatment and support. Campaigners are urging policymakers to invest in research in this area so that these children can be managed appropriately and return to normal life.
Until now, the focus has been on COVID-19 in adults. Perhaps now is the time to think about the long-term effects it can have on children. We urgently need research into both the effects the lockdown has had on children and also the long-term effects of the coronavirus on children. Both are vital to their future health.
Progress Report: COVID-19 vaccines for children
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has shown 100 percent efficacy against COVID-19 in 12-to-15-year-olds in the preliminary results of a phase 3 trial.
The phase 3 trial included 2,260 children in the US. A total of 18 cases of COVID-19 were observed in the placebo group whose members were given an alternative vaccine, while none were reported in the vaccinated group. The vaccine also elicited robust antibody responses and was well tolerated, with side effects consistent with those observed in participants aged 16 to 25.
After the success in its phase 2 trial, Pfizer applied for emergency authorisation for the vaccine in the US as well as other parts of the world, including Canada and Europe. According to the American medicines regulatory body, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) is a mechanism to facilitate the availability and use of medical countermeasures, including vaccines, during public health emergencies, such as the current COVID-19 pandemic.
Under an EUA, the regulator may allow the use of unapproved medical products, or unapproved uses of approved medical products in an emergency to diagnose, treat, or prevent serious or life-threatening diseases or conditions when certain statutory criteria have been met, including that there are no adequate, approved, and available alternatives.
On May 10, the FDA authorised the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for children aged 12 to 15. Dr Janet Woodook, the agency’s acting commissioner, called the authorisation “a significant step in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic”. She added: “Parents and guardians can rest assured that the agency undertook a rigorous and thorough review of all available data, as we have with all of our COVID-19 vaccine emergency use authorizations”.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), from March 1, 2020 to April 30, 2021, approximately 1.5 million COVID-19 cases in individuals aged 11 to 17 have been reported in the US.
“Having a vaccine authorised for a younger population is a critical step in continuing to lessen the immense public health burden caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Peter Marks, MD, PhD, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research. “With science guiding our evaluation and decision-making process, the FDA can assure the public and medical community that the available data meet our rigorous standards to support the emergency use of this vaccine in the adolescent population 12 years of age and older.”
Prior to the US giving the vaccine the green light, Canada also approved its use in children over the age of 12. Supriya Sharma, chief medical adviser to Health Canada, the government’s medical agency, told reporters on May 6 that the vaccine was “safe and effective” and would allow a return to “a more normal life” amid the pandemic. She added that the most common side effects for children are mild and temporary, like “a sore arm, chills or fever”.
Europe and the UK are yet to give their approval of the Pfizer vaccine in those aged 12 to 15, but most experts agree part of the solution to this global pandemic has to be vaccinating children.
[Muaz Kory/Al Jazeera]
Personal account: Online abuse for talking about vaccines
The last few months have been a huge test for me, as a doctor, on many levels. Working on the front line during a pandemic has been a challenge; seeing my patients get sick from COVID-19 in the numbers that they did was hard. Seeing some of them die from the virus was even more difficult and then following that up with conversations with their bereft loved ones only added to the heartbreak. I know many of my colleagues on the front line feel exhausted due to the toll the last year has taken on their mental health.
But then the COVID-19 vaccines were given the green light and a hugely successful vaccine programme was rolled out here in the UK, as well as in other countries. To encourage people to take up the vaccine, I was asked by the government to be part of vaccine advertising campaigns and, because I have mixed Pakistani and Indian heritage, much of my messaging was aimed at people from a South Asian background. I was also part of the campaign to encourage social distancing measures and testing, all of which I agreed to do because I had seen first-hand what the virus does to people.
In hindsight, I think I was naïve, because the thing I was not prepared for was the level of abuse I have sadly received online.
For encouraging the vaccine, I have been accused of being a “paid media shill” – something I had to look up because I had never heard that expression before. Essentially, it seemed that some people thought I was part of a larger organisation that operated in the shadows and had plans to inject the human race with a substance that would allow mind control!
I batted that one off as crazy. But then things became more personal, with people messaging me to tell me I would have “blood on my hands” when people died from the vaccine. Direct threats to my wellbeing were also made, and sinister letters started arriving at my surgery. I reported it to the social media sites, which did nothing. I also reported some of the direct threats to the police, who were more helpful.
However, it was not until I started reporting on research into the use of COVID-19 vaccines in children that the real abuse began.
I will be honest; I understand that the use of vaccines in children stirs up a lot of emotions for people. The majority of children get mild or no symptoms from COVID-19, so are we giving children the vaccine to protect others? Is that completely ethical?
On the flip side, a small number of children have died as a result of a coronavirus infection across the world, and, as I have reported earlier in this column, it would appear the risk of long COVID in children is real. Furthermore, to reach the level of herd immunity required in a population to reduce virus spread, vaccinating children makes sense.
I have been very careful about giving my personal opinion on this matter and have been guided by the evidence which suggests the vaccines are safe and effective in young people. When I went on UK television to simply report the findings of the Pfizer vaccine in children I was bombarded with abusive messages, which ranged from calling me a “child murderer” to some people calling me a “paedophile”. And this was simply for reporting on the study, not giving my opinion. Once again, I received messages that threatened my safety which had to be reported to the police.
I am only human; there is only so much abuse I can take before it takes a toll on my mental health. Some may say this is the price you pay for being on social media, and in some ways, they may be right – speaking to my NHS colleagues, I understand many have received abuse when sharing their stories about front-line work during the pandemic or for promoting vaccine uptake.
The easy answer is for the social media channels to police this kind of abuse more robustly, but they do not. So, it is for us to think long and hard before sending messages to people on social media, especially if they are negative ones. You may type it, send it and then forget about it, but believe me, the effect of it stays with the recipient for a long time.
[Muaz Kory/Al Jazeera]
And now, some good news: Woman gives birth to baby while in a coma from COVID-19
Marriam Ahmad was 29 weeks pregnant when she was admitted to hospital in Wales, UK, with symptoms of COVID-19. She had asthma and her condition deteriorated rapidly. Her breathing became more laboured. The doctors planned to perform an emergency caesarean section on Marriam while she was still conscious but, as her health became worse, she was told she would need to be put on a ventilator and into an induced coma and that she may not survive at all.
Marriam only had time to call her parents before being put on a ventilator. Marriam’s baby was born on January 18 at 8:27pm BST (19:27 GMT) while Marriam was unconscious. The baby was taken straight to neonatal intensive care. Thankfully, Marriam woke up the next day but was not able to remember a thing. She was not able to see her baby girl as they were both too unwell to be moved, but she did get to see pictures of her. Luckily, the baby, named Khadija, did not have any of the complications that can occur in pre-term babies and, after eight weeks in hospital, both mum and baby returned home.
“I am just so grateful – that she’s still alive, that I am still alive,” Marriam said of her experience.
Reader’s question: How can I prevent my child from catching COVID-19?
It is important to remember that the vast majority of children have few, if any, symptoms when they catch COVID-19. And, with mounting evidence that vaccines in adults reduce transmission rates across the board, the chances of your child getting sick from COVID-19 is small.
Saying that, it is important to stick to your local guidelines: handwashing and social distancing are still key, but experts are now focusing on another aspect of prevention: ventilation. We have learned over time that the most likely way the virus is spread is via airborne particles. These are small particles containing the virus that can linger in the air. So, if there is good airflow or ventilation then these are likely to be moved on before anyone can breathe them in. Static airflow means they stay in the air for hours, increasing the risk of spread.
So it is always worth ventilating indoor spaces and finding ways to improve your ventilation if you want to reduce the risk of spreading the virus to either adults or children.
Did Convey have anything to say to Hamas about firing over a thousand rockets from densely populated areas, actually trying to kill Israeli children and putting their own children in danger by drawing a retaliatory fire? So any piece of mind for people who put Israel into a position when they have to suppress the rocket batteries, rocket factories, warehouses, and the crews operating them? (I am assuming Convey does not think that the right thing for Israel to do is not to respond and allow rockets to continue flying and targeting its civilians, right?)P. S. I really do not want to hear about the “bigger picture” and settlements and real estate disputes and forceful police actions near a mosque to stop stone throwers. These could all be legitimate grievances, but deliberately trying to murder random civilians in random Israeli cities by firing over a thousand rockets is just a totally different thing.
Imagine in the past, when black guys would try to stand up against their masters or when some smaller groups in nazi germany would stand up against their regime and people telling them after they got killed: “oh my god, why did you do that, wasnt it obvious that you had no chance since they are better equipped, its senseless” …Stop this fcing “everybody knows that this or that will happen so just dont do it, deal with your misery and accept it”-argumentation. People who think that way make 0 room for change, they unironically help with their attitude that nothing changes and make extactly these people who try to stand up against bad things look like idiots.Many people in the past gave up their lives for us to have those rights we have today. Better keep that in mind.
Those killed at the Shati refugee camp were family members, Palestinian rescuers and relatives say.Gaza City – At least 10 Palestinians, including eight children, have been killed by an Israeli air raid on their home in the Shati refugee camp in the Gaza Strip, following the fifth night of relentless bombardment of the besieged enclave.
In the early hours of Saturday, rescue workers were digging through the rubble of the Abu Hatab family home where more people are believed to be buried.
At least 15 people were also wounded in the air raid, including an infant named Omar.
Nabil Abu Al Reesh, a doctor treating survivors at al-Shifa Hospital, said responders are “still trying to recover more bodies and figure out who is who”.
“This is truly a massacre that cannot be described,” he told Al Jazeera.
A nurse holds a baby who was pulled alive from under the rubble after the Israeli air raid [Mahmud Hams/AFP]A man who identified himself as a cousin of the owner of the house told Al Jazeera the attack happened “without any warning”.
“We ran outside; we saw the four-storey house get completely demolished. It was completely levelled,” he said.
He added the homeowner’s sister and children were visiting when the attack occurred.
“They were all killed,” he said. “All of them.”
A boy who was wounded in the attack told Al Jazeera from the hospital that “the missiles hit and the windows got shattered.”
“It hit our head. We got wounded,” he said. “We started running barefoot and my sister left all our belongings behind.”
A wounded Palestinian boy sits on a hospital bed at al-Shifa Hospital [Mahmud Hams/AFP]According to the United Nations refugee agency for Palestinians, Shati is third largest of the Gaza Strip’s eight refugee camps and one of the most crowded. It is home to more than 85,000 refugees, who all reside in an area of just 0.52 square kilometres.
Other Gaza sites hit by Israeli missiles on Saturday included a bank and the interior ministry. Another air raid also reportedly hit a house in Khan Yunis.
Hamas, the group governing the Gaza Strip, responded to the latest attack on Shati refugee camp by firing a barrage of rockets towards the southern Israeli towns of Askhelon and Ashdod. No casualties were reported.
The Israeli bombardment of Gaza has killed at least 139 Palestinians, including 40 children, and wounded more than 920 since Monday when, following days of protests against the forced expulsion of Palestinian families from the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah and subsequent Israeli crackdowns and raids on the Al-Aqsa mosque compound, Hamas began firing rockets at Israel.
The rockets, many of which have been intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome air defence system, have killed at least eight people in Israel, including one child.
In the occupied West Bank, Israeli forces have killed at least 13 Palestinians protesting against continued Israeli occupation and the ongoing bombardment of Gaza, while violence between Palestinian citizens of Israel and Israeli Jews has persisted amid the escalation.
A post by the Austrian chancellor has received a mixed response online. While some, including the Israeli prime minister’s son, welcomed Austria’s condemnation of Palestinian “terrorism,” others slammed Vienna’s side-taking.
“Today was used as a sign of solidarity with #Israel the Israeli flag is hoisted on the roof of the Federal Chancellery,” Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz tweeted on Friday, adding “the terrorist attacks on Israel are to be condemned in the strongest! Together we stand by Israel’s side.” His post, accompanied by a photo of the country’s Chancellery flying the Israeli flag, while supported by some, has drawn extensive criticism on social media, leading some to question ‘Austrian neutrality’.Chancellor of ‘neutral’ Austria seems to believe this stunt will win him support & deflect from domestic crisis?Israel authorities are subjugating Palestinians to system of apartheid & for decades have used excessive force against them.Blind support is dehumanizing & shameful— Hanan Salah (@HananMSalah) May 14, 2021“If you don’t see the shameful facts and stand by Israel, you are at least as cruel and merciless as Israel,” one person wrote, adding that Vienna must be blind not to see this. Many others highlighted that Israel’s attacks on alleged terrorist positions in Gaza were illegal under international law and urged Vienna not to support such criminality. One individual called on Kurz to “think carefully who the terrorist is here,” referencing to decades of Israeli occupation. Several users responded with photos of innocent women and children injured by Israel’s assaults on targets in Gaza. One added sarcastically, “Austria stands by the side of innocent civilians and their children! Oh wait, nobody cares about you.”
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However, Kurz’s tweet was also welcomed by many, including the son of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Yair Netanyahu simply wrote “thank you,” accompanied by the flags of Austria and Israel. Some Twitter users defended Vienna, noting “Neutrality does not apply to terrorist organizations. The question alone is insane.” Others called on the EU to follow Austria’s lead and support Israel against Palestinian terrorism, with some blaming Hamas for the Palestinian deaths attributed to Israel.Thank you @sebastiankurz !!!! One day the whole European Union will wake up to the reality… I hope it will not be too late for them….— n.b (@nirbtn) May 14, 2021The escalating conflict between Israel and Palestinian militant groups this week, amid the backdrop of unrest in the Palestinian community, has drawn polarized reactions across the world.Israeli violence against Palestine has been widely condemned in the Muslim world, while many international organizations as well as world leaders called for de-escalation.The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said on Friday that “it’s time for the world to hold Hamas accountable.”WATCH as a Hamas rocket aimed at Israel misfires and falls back into Gaza.But this isn’t the 1st time—Hamas misfired 350 rockets in the last 3 days.These rockets result in the deaths of innocent Gazan civilians.It’s time for the world to hold Hamas accountable. pic.twitter.com/vmhmXTZrl6— Israel Defense Forces (@IDF) May 13, 2021The IDF claims that Hamas has misfired more than 350 rockets in the last three days, many of them landing in Gaza, “resulting in the deaths of innocent Gazan civilians.”If you like this story, share it with a friend!
An IDF air raid on a densely populated refugee camp in Gaza has killed at least eight people, the majority of them children, according to multiple reports, as Israeli warplanes continue to hammer the blockaded Palestinian enclave.
The IDF dropped at least three bombs on a three-story home in the al-Shati refugee camp early on Saturday morning, according to a witness cited by the Times of Israel. While Gaza Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra initially put the death toll at seven, he said the figure was expected to rise, as other victims were believed to be buried in rubble. At least 15 others were injured.“I saw the bodies of four people, including children, being rushed to the hospital. I could not endure and ran back to my home.” said the witness, Said al-Ghoul, a resident of the camp. He claimed that no warning was given before the strike.🚨 Shati’ refugee camp massacre A doctor is telling Al Jazeera that medics tried to save as many body parts as possible for the 5 children and 2 women killed so they could be buried. Death toll expected to increase as bodies still trappedOnly survivor is baby Omar, two months pic.twitter.com/BNN6y9sEV2— لينة (@LinahAlsaafin) May 15, 2021Subsequent reports noted eight fatalities as a rescue operation got underway, including six children and two women, many said to belong to the Abu Hatab family. Photos purporting to show the aftermath of the strike amid the rescue effort have circulated online.Soon after the deadly strike, Hamas, the political party and militant group that governs Gaza, fired yet another volley of rockets into southern Israel in retaliation, the Times reported.Despite putting out a steady stream of commentary throughout the offensive, the IDF has yet to acknowledge the camp bombing, instead stressing that its operations are directed at rocket launch sites and other military targets – often hidden among civilian infrastructure. It claims more than 2,000 Hamas rockets have been fired since Monday, when the latest bout of violence kicked off.An average neighborhood in Gaza:a mosquea kindergarten& a Hamas terror tunnel.While Hamas deliberately embeds its terror infrastructure in civilian areas, the IDF takes all possible precautions to avoid harming civilians when striking. pic.twitter.com/pYYIZ7b3eW— Israel Defense Forces (@IDF) May 15, 2021Also known as the ‘beach camp’ for its close proximity to Gaza’s Mediterranean coast, al-Shati is the territory’s third largest refugee site, home to 86,000 residents, who are packed into just 0.3 square miles (0.5km), according to the UN. The agency claims the crowded camp is among the most densely populated areas on Earth.One of eight official refugee camps in Gaza, al-Shati was established in 1948 after tens of thousands of Palestinians fled their homes and villages during the Israeli War for Independence, also known to Palestinians as the ‘Nakba’, or ‘catastrophe’, which saw 750,000 Arabs displaced from territory that became Israel. The refugee population has since swelled to around 5.7 million worldwide, according to the UN, with over 1.3 million remaining in Gaza.Despite repeated calls for a ceasefire from international bodies, hostilities have continued into the sixth day as of Saturday morning, seeing at least 137 Palestinians killed, including 36 children, and nearly 1,000 wounded. At least nine Israelis have also perished in rocket fire, among them a six-year-old girl and one IDF soldier, in addition to around 500 injured.Hamas’ first rocket barrage on Monday night followed days of heated protests over looming evictions of Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem, prompting police crackdowns and violent clashes with security forces that left hundreds injured. IDF bombing raids started soon after, seeing hundreds of strikes on Gaza, some leveling high-rise structures, including apartment blocks and media offices. The military also claims to have struck dozens of Hamas targets and assassinated several senior officials in the organization, insisting that it takes precautions to avoid killing civilians and that the bombing is defensive.
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Charter buses arrive at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas, escorted by Federal Protective Service Police. File: AP PhotoReports of unaccompanied migrant children being forced to stay overnight in parked buses at the Dallas convention center are “completely unacceptable” if true, US Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said Friday. Dr. Amy Cohen, a psychiatrist and executive director of the advocacy group Every Last One, said a 15-year-old Honduran boy she is working with was held on a bus from Saturday to Wednesday, using the bus bathroom during that time and unable to move about freely or communicate with family. The boy encountered at least three other children who were held as long in the parking lot of the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center, said Cohen, who also has been in contact with another child who was confined earlier to a bus for an extended period. It is unclear how many children were kept on buses overnight. “This is completely unacceptable,” Becerra said. “We’re quickly investigating this to get to the bottom of what happened, and we’ll work to make sure this never happens again. The safety and well-being of the children is our priority.” The Honduran boy’s experience, first reported by NBC News, comes as Health and Human Services massively expands its capacity to house migrant children until they can be placed with a sponsor in the United States, usually parents or close relatives, while their cases wind through immigration court. It comes in response to the largest influx of unaccompanied children on record. The department, whose lodging is more suited to longer-term stays than Border Patrol holding facilities, has grown its capacity to about 20,000 beds from less than 1,000 in mid-February. It’s opened 14 emergency intake centers, including at the Dallas convention center and other large venues. The Dallas facility opened in February with plans to house up to 3,000 children. Health and Human Services had 20,397 unaccompanied children in its custody as of Wednesday. The government flew the Honduran boy to Seattle to reunite with his mother and uncle after NBC News inquired about his status. MVM Inc., a transportation contractor for the government, said it has “safely and professionally” transported migrant children and families for more than six years. “Over the last seven weeks, the number of children needing escorts in this pandemic environment has increased to more than 7,100, creating challenging travel logistics and resulting in some extended wait times on their way to reunification sites,” the company said in a statement. MVM said it experienced some delays at a 24-hour regional hub where buses meet to get children on their way to join family, which resulted in “a child staying at that site longer than our target wait time of four hours. This is a violation of our policy and we are conducting an internal review of this incident.” The company said the child had access to an air-conditioned bus, food and snacks, bottled water and personal protective equipment. FacebookTwitterLinkedinEMail
Reports of unaccompanied migrant children being forced to stay overnight in parked buses at the Dallas convention center are “completely unacceptable” if true, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said Friday.Dr. Amy Cohen, a psychiatrist and executive director of the advocacy group Every Last One, said a 15-year-old Honduran boy she is working with was held on a bus from Saturday to Wednesday, using the bus bathroom during that time and unable to move about freely or communicate with family. The boy encountered at least three other children who were held as long in the parking lot of the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center, said Cohen, who also has been in contact with another child who was confined earlier to a bus for an extended period.It is unclear how many children were kept on buses overnight.“This is completely unacceptable,” Becerra said. “We’re quickly investigating this to get to the bottom of what happened, and we’ll work to make sure this never happens again. The safety and well-being of the children is our priority.”The Honduran boy’s experience, first reported by NBC News, comes as Health and Human Services massively expands its capacity to house migrant children until they can be placed with a sponsor in the United States, usually parents or close relatives, while their cases wind through immigration court. It comes in response to the largest influx of unaccompanied children on record.The department, whose lodging is more suited to longer-term stays than Border Patrol holding facilities, has grown its capacity to about 20,000 beds from less than 1,000 in mid-February. It’s opened 14 emergency intake centers, including at the Dallas convention center and other large venues. The Dallas facility opened in February with plans to house up to 3,000 children.Health and Human Services had 20,397 unaccompanied children in its custody as of Wednesday.The government flew the Honduran boy to Seattle to reunite with his mother and uncle after NBC News inquired about his status.Story continuesMVM Inc., a transportation contractor for the government, said it has “safely and professionally” transported migrant children and families for more than six years.“Over the last seven weeks, the number of children needing escorts in this pandemic environment has increased to more than 7,100, creating challenging travel logistics and resulting in some extended wait times on their way to reunification sites,” the company said in a statement.MVM said it experienced some delays at a 24-hour regional hub where buses meet to get children on their way to join family, which resulted in “a child staying at that site longer than our target wait time of four hours. This is a violation of our policy and we are conducting an internal review of this incident.”The company said the child had access to an air-conditioned bus, food and snacks, bottled water and personal protective equipment.___Spagat reported from San Diego.
In at least one case a child was kept on a coach for four days, waiting to join his family.