News / Covid-19
While the delta variant has been making Covid more common in kids, public hospitals and clinics around the country refuse to test children under 12, even though the variant appears to be transmissible among all age groups.
According to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases of South Africa (NICD), nearly 97 000 children aged between one and 10 have tested positive for Covid as of yesterday, while more than 242 000 between 10 and 21 had also tested positive.
The NICD said that as of June, individuals aged less than or equal to 19 years made up 13.4% of Sars-CoV-2 tests, 10.2% of laboratory-confirmed Covid cases, 4.2% of all Covid associated admissions and 0.7% of Covid associated deaths.
“There were 1.6 million tests among individuals aged less than or equal to 19 years during the surveillance period, equivalent to a testing rate of 7 598.2 per 100 000 with a 12.5% percentage testing positive,” the NICD said.
“There were 184 187 laboratory-confirmed Covid cases aged 19 years during the surveillance period from 1 March, 2020, to 19 June, 2021.”
Owner of Bundles educare creche Motlatsi Moabelo said when she tested positive for Covid, she asked the nurses to test her son because she was the primary caregiver, but they refused and insisted the child could not be infected.
“I know a lot of people don’t think children can be infected but it’s true. I even had to close down the centre because five teachers tested positive, while at least 10 kids were sick,” she said.
A nurse at a public hospital in Pretoria, who requested anonymity, confirmed that they did not test children, especially those below 12 years of age. Several schools across Gauteng have also confirmed Covid cases among teachers and pupils, as teachers said children complained of stomach aches, breathing issues, severe headaches and vomiting.
Epidemiologist Dr Jo Barnes said although previous research had revealed children had mild symptoms from Covid or did not get infected, that had changed somewhat with the delta variant.
“Children do get infected and can spread the infection, but on the whole they do get fewer severe symptoms, which presents a risk to others since those who do not show severe symptoms or none at all can spread the infection without being aware of it,” Barnes said.
“For children whose health is already at risk due to other comorbidities, the delta variant represents a bigger danger.”
Several countries have recently recorded an increased number of Covid cases among children, with reports of hospitals in the south and the midwestern United States stating they were treating more children with Covid than ever.
Barnes added: “At present the vaccines are not formally registered for children. In the US, children below that age of 16 are not yet covered by vaccines.
“If vaccines are found to be safe and effective for children, that would be really helpful as it will cut down on a route of passing on the infection that is not covered at present.” She also said if more adults would be vaccinated, it would prevent the infection spreading to children.
The NICD urged parents to note that symptoms of Covid may present differently in children than adults. Some of the symptoms, it noted, which were especially worrisome, included difficulty breathing or catching breath, inability to keep down any liquids, confusion or inability to awaken and bluish lips.
“Severe disease is mostly found in children with underlying chronic conditions,” the NICD added.
Some children had diarrhoea or vomiting, sore throats and excessive fatigue, however studies were ongoing about how Covid affected children and why they usually had a milder symptoms.