By FakirHassen: South African experts have expressed concern over the growing number of COVID-19 infections in young children, even as the country recorded 16,055 other infections and 25 deaths overnight Friday.
“We have always seen children not being heavily affected by the Covid epidemic in the past (and) not having a lot of admissions (to the hospital). In the third wave, we saw more admissions among children under the age of five and adolescents between the ages of 15 and 19. .
“Now, at the start of this fourth wave, we are seeing a pretty big increase in all age groups, but especially in the under-fives,” said Dr Waasila Jassat of the National Institute of Communicable Diseases ( NICD) at a Ministry of Health press conference on Friday.
“As expected, the incidence is still lowest in children. However, the incidence among those under five is now the second highest and only second after the incidence among those over 60.
“The trend we are seeing now that is different from what we have seen before is the particular increase in hospital admissions among children under five,” Jassat added.
Dr Michelle Groome, also from NICD, said more research would be done to investigate the reasons for this phenomenon.
“It is still very early in the wave. At this point, it has just started in the younger age groups and we will know more (by) monitoring this age group in the coming weeks.
“We just need to stress the importance of surge preparedness to also include pediatric beds and staff,” Groome said.
Dr Ntsakisi Maluleke, an official with the health department of Gauteng province, which is most affected with up to 80% of daily infections, also expressed concern.
“The phenomenon of younger age groups as well as pregnant women with increased infection is currently under investigation,” said Maluleke.
“We hope that in the coming weeks we can also explain why this particular cohort of patients is showing an increase in infections,” she added.
Health Minister Joe Phaahla told the briefing that infection and positivity rates were increasing in seven of South Africa’s nine provinces.
“Only the Free State and the North Cape currently have low numbers and positivity rates. Even though with them we are not talking about the positivity rate of one to two percent, but of three to five percent, ”he said.
“Although we are still dealing with a few days and limited data, it appears that this variant is indeed highly transmissible, including infections in people who have been vaccinated, but infections mainly cause mild illness, especially in people. vaccinated, ”said the minister.
Phaahla said hospital admissions were dominated by those who are not vaccinated and young people under the age of 40, most of whom are not vaccinated.
“At this point, even in Gauteng Province, which accounts for 80% of new daily infections, we have yet to reach threatening stages in terms of hospital capacity and new hospital admissions.
“The trend is indeed towards a rapid increase in cases, but we hope that the mild nature of the diseases among those infected will continue to be the dominant characteristic,” said the Minister.
Phaahla gave assurances that the National and Gauteng
provincial health services will be able to take care of those who become seriously ill.
However, one risk identified was that even if they suffered from mild illnesses, healthcare workers would have to self-isolate, leading to a shortage of trained personnel in hospitals.
The health minister said national and provincial authorities are urgently seeking to resolve this issue.
Dr Ramphelane Morewane of the National Department of Health said a contingency plan has been put in place across South Africa to ensure hospitals never run out of oxygen during Wave Four.