WHO: Virus contact restrictions threaten lives of premature babies

Vienna, March 16, (dpa/GNA) - Strict rules put in place in maternity wards to stop the spread of the coronavirus could have fatal consequences for premature babies, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Tuesday.

The WHO said that the medical benefits of physical contact between parents and their premature babies far outweigh the risk of the coronavirus. Many countries have placed a ban on such contact in light of the pandemic, said the WHO, to the detriment of the babies.

The organization recommends the kangaroo method for premature infants and newborns with low weight, which involves placing the child skin-to-skin on the mother or father's chest for as many hours a day as possible. In addition, it's recommended that they are breast-fed.

An international survey of nurses and physicians has found that the pandemic has led to restrictions on baby-parent contact, with two-thirds of 1,120 respondents saying they would separate the mother from their child if they tested positive or their status was unclear.

A model calculation by WHO has found that the risk of death due to contact restrictions was 65 per cent higher than the risk of the child contracting a fatal coronavirus infection through such contact.

WHO expert Ornella Lincetto said at a press conference that cuddling not only increases the chances of survival for premature babies, but "it will also reduce the stress of the parents due to Covid."