'They can die': The Covid 'failure' amid surge in cases

·News Reporter
·3-min read

As Covid-19 cases surge in the world's fourth most populated nation, alarmingly so does infections in children which has led to hundreds of deaths. 

The rise in cases of infants in Indonesia has once again raised significant concern the effects of the virus on children have been overlooked globally.

Covid-19 has long been seen as a virus that causes devastation to older generations, however it is proving catastrophic for younger people when the virus is rampant in the community and preventative measures are neglected.

"People still don't think that children can suffer and die from Covid. Awareness is still low," Dr Aman Pulungan, head of Indonesia's paediatric society, said.

Children wearing a protective face mask are checked with thermal scanner before getting free food amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Jakarta, Indonesia, May 14, 2020.
Indonesia's Covid plight has highlighted the risk posed to children. Source: Reuters

It's a similar message NSW's Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant tried to get through to residents in her state after it emerged eight of 35 hospitalised Covid patients were under the age of 35.

"This should dispel the myth that this is something that only impacts on the elderly," she told reporters on Wednesday.

Indonesia has recorded close to 700 child deaths due to Covid, with about half in children under the age of five.

As daily cases in Indonesia surge beyond the 30,000 mark, fuelled by the highly-infectious Delta variant, cases in children are maintaining a similar trajectory.

There were 11,872 cases in children in the week to July 4. That's nearly double than the 6000 plus cases the week prior.

Indonesia, like many nations worldwide, is facing a spike in cases linked to the Delta variant.
Indonesia, like many nations worldwide, is facing a spike in cases linked to the Delta variant. Source: Worldometers

The percentage of overall cases that were under 18 years of age has risen to 12.6 per cent in June compared to 5 per cent in July last year.

"It's very concerning," Dr Pulungan told the ABC, admitting it was the nation's "failure" in taking care of children. 

Seli Aisyah's four children are among the surge in cases, the youngest just 18 months old. She ignored direction to avoid family gatherings, taking her children along with her.

"They kept saying their body hurt, but I was helpless, I can't help them," she told the ABC, revealing the family is surviving on sharing two oxygen cylinders.

One of her sons has been hospitalised, which she described as "one of the worst time in my life".

Vaccines opened up to children

Indonesia President Joko Widodo last week announced authorities had given a green light for children age 12 to 17 to be inoculated with China's Sinovac vaccine.

University of Western Australia epidemiologist Dr Zoe Hyde has long spoke of the threat posed by Covid to children and subsequently the wider community.

"We can no longer afford to overlook the role children play in transmission if we hope to contain the virus," she said last year after publishing a paper on the risk of infection in children.

She believes children's future health is being overlooked, with the potential of generation suffering from chronic health problems as a result of Covid-19 infection. 

Dr Pulungan said paediatricians were already seeing cases of "long Covid" - debilitating and lingering symptoms months after infection - among Indonesian children.

Dr Hyde said it was vital children were included in vaccine plans moving forward.

"Not only do they deserve protection from Covid-19 in their own right, we won't achieve herd immunity without vaccinating them," she explained last week. 

With Reuters

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