With a record number of children testing positive for COVID-19 in Karnataka, the government is preparing to protect the younger ones from a possible third wave of the pandemic. The number of infections among children in the second wave is more than double of what was reported in the first wave.
The government has decided to set up a task force, headed by cardiologist Dr Devi Shetty, to tackle the issue. A number of Covid care centers for children are also being set up in the districts.
Between March 2020 and September 2020 when the first wave was at its peak, Karnataka reported 19,378 cases among children under the age of 10. From then on until May this year, 49,257 in this age group have been infected. As many as 68,635 children under the age of 10 have been infected till May 20 this year.
“The virus will find those who are susceptible. Since most elderly and others are already infected or have been vaccinated, the virus will continue to infect those who are not protected. Therefore, definitely, more and more people in the younger age group, including children are prone to higher infection in future waves. But what proportion of the younger age groups are having severe symptoms is not very clear yet,” said Giridhar Babu, a professor of epidemiology.
The case is similar even with those in the age group of 10-19. From March 2020 to September 2020, 41,895 children tested positive for the virus, while 1,31,391 got infected since then, taking the total to 1,73,286 so far.
“There are some reported events of multi-organ involvement – something like Kawasaki syndrome – in Delhi and Mumbai and a few cases in Bangalore. But when the numbers are large, what this small proportion will result in — how many number of cases of such severe inflammation disorder we see is the question. At present, we don’t have the capacity we require in terms of specialists and paediatric care needed in the country — whether the number of people are going to be more or less. I think we must step up the resources for paediatric care,” said Babu.
Women and Child Welfare Minister Shashikala Jolle said the government is looking at ways to take care of infected children. “We don’t want our children to suffer. We are looking at how to care for children who are infected. Also, what happens if a child loses both parents to the virus? Our department is setting up a children Covid care centre in each of the 30 districts in the state. Be it using Morarji Desai School or Rani Chennamma schools and NGOs that work with us or run special schools, we are taking help of them all,” Jolle said
“We are discussing of hospitalising children as for younger ones, facilities should also be in place to accommodate the mothers. The matter has been taken up with our health minister,” said Jolle.
Amid growing instances of people sharing posts on social media calling for adoption of children, the minister said such incidents should be immediately reported to the authorities. Adoption is a legal process and anyone who knows of such children can call on the helpline – 1098 – so that the administration can take necessary action.
“The departments related to children and civil society have to be very alert during pandemic. There are chances these children can be trafficked, illegally adopted or can be used for child labour. Once you see these children orphaned, please inform immediately to the authorities concerned so that the child’s life can be saved. We have directed all district-level officers to collect and submit data on children losing both their parents due to COVID,” said Karnataka State Commission for Protection of Child Rights Chairperson Antony Sebastian.