New Covid variant affecting kids more, data shows

Published April 2, 2021
Data shows cases have increased in children more rapidly compared to adults and elderly people. — AFP/File
Data shows cases have increased in children more rapidly compared to adults and elderly people. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: While experts are of mixed opinion about the UK variant of Covid-19 being more transmissible in children, data shows cases have increased in children more rapidly compared to adults and elderly people.

However, they say there are fewer chances in children to translate the infection into a disease.

A double variant virus has been reported in India which showed that the virus has continuously been mutating and can become more lethal.

On the other hand, record numbers of tests were conducted and cases reported in Pakistan since June 2020.

While panic has triggered among the citizens that the new variant is infecting children, Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (Pims) Joint Executive Director Dr Minhajus Siraj told Dawn he had no scientific study to prove that the new variant was infecting children more.

“However, it is a fact that during the first wave we did not admit a single person less than 30 years of age. During the second wave, patients were over 12 years of age but now, during the third wave, we are receiving even infants,” he said.

Doctors say unlike previous two waves, hospitals receiving even infants in third wave

Head of the paediatric medicine unit at Children’s Hospital of Pims Prof Dr Maqbool Hussain said data based information was not available but during the first and second waves fewer children had been infected compared to the third wave.

“As far as I remember, hardly any child was admitted to Pims during the first wave despite the fact that a large number of children were tested. However, the mutated strain of the virus had been infecting children. The bad thing is that children cannot be limited so they rapidly transmit the virus to others, especially parents and grandparents. The good thing is that there is a very low mortality rate in children as around 80pc of them remain asymptomatic, 10pc have mild symptoms and less than 10pc are brought to hospitals. On the other hand, a large number elderly people are brought to hospital,” he said.

Microbiologist Dr Javaid Usman told Dawn that the virus was continuously mutating and may become more transmissible.

“I believe that the virus has become more transmissible for all age groups. However, it seems more children are now being tested and found positive. There is no need to get panic as the most probable reason is the number of tests. Moreover, every infection does not translate into a disease. Recently, a double variant has been reported in India which is more transmissible,” he said.

District Health Officer Dr Zaeem Zia said there was no national or international data which would confirm if children were being more infected compared to adults.

“There were cases among children from the very first day. However, in the winter, pneumonia also aggravated the situation,” he said.

According to documents available with Dawn, in Islamabad on September 1 there were 2,029 cases of up to 10 years old children and on March 31 the number increased by four times - 8,305. There were 4,533 cases in the 10 to 20 years age group seven months ago and recent data showed the cases have increased by four times to 17,441. There were 8,182 cases in the 20-30 age group and this has swelled to 23,028 which is three times more. In 31-45 years age group, the cases increased by three times in the 46-60 years age group by over three times and in the 61-80 years age group by four times.

Record number of tests

The data of the National Command and Control Centre has conducted a record number of tests - 50,055 - in a single day. Moreover, a record number of cases since June last year - 4,974 - were also reported and 98 people died in a single day. While 419 ventilators were in use across the country, over 60pc vents were occupied in Multan, Lahore, Islamabad and Gujranwala. Data of oxygen beds showed that 100pc beds in Swat were in use. Moreover, the number of active cases was 53,127 on April 1.

Work from home policy

The Cabinet Secretariat on Thursday issued a notification stating that all federal government offices shall observe 50pc work from home policy.

The notification has come into force with immediate effect and shall continue until further order.

Debate in National Assembly

During a debate in the National Assembly, opposition members criticised the policy of the government regarding procurement of the Covid-19 vaccine.

Nafisa Shah, Mehnaz Aziz, Hina Rabbani Khar and others said in Pakistan only 0.21pc of the population had been vaccinated but in Bangladesh the ration was 5pc.

They also suggested procuring vaccine and regulating its prices.

Parliamentary Secretary Dr Nausheen Hamid said the country had a proper vaccine policy and the shelf life of Sinopharm was two years and other vaccines would expire in six months.

Published in Dawn, April 2nd, 2021

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