Children below the age of 10 appear to be prone to COVID-19 in the second wave and Bengaluru, which is seeing the highest spike, recorded infections in nearly 750 children in this age bracket in March alone.
According to data from the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) war room, 77 children below the age of 10 were infected on Thursday alone. Overall, over 1,000 children have been infected in the State and this has raised concerns. This was one of the compelling reasons for the State government to again close schools.
V. Ravi, a member of the State’s COVID-19 Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) and nodal officer for genomic confirmation of SARS-CoV-2 in Karnataka, said although the virus has been mutating there is no strong evidence to show that it attacks children the most.
The reasons, he believes, lie elsewhere. “During the first wave, children were more protected as there was a lockdown and schools were closed. However, now they have been attending schools, outdoor classes such as tuitions, social gatherings, and other functions along with their parents,” he said.
Chikkanarasappa Reddy, associate professor of Paediatrics at Bowring and Lady Curzon Medical College and Research Institute, said he had seen more children with COVID-19 in the past one week. “The hospital has two 45-day-old babies and two children in the 10-19 age group admitted in the COVID-19 ward. The reports of four babies just born to positive mothers are awaited,” he said, adding that more children were getting infected at homes through their parents.
Smitha Segu, nodal officer for COVID-19 at Bengaluru Medical College and Research Institute, said the COVID-19 ward in Victoria Hospital had seen more child admissions in the last one month when compared to the numbers in previous months.
However, some paediatricians said the number of children infected in schools was negligible. “Parents are the main source of infection as children accompany them to social gatherings, weddings, and parties. Even if they do not accompany them, parents are carriers and pass on the virus to their children,” said Asha Benekappa, former director of the State-run Indira Gandhi Institute of Child Health.
“After the number of cases declined in the State after December, people let their guard down. In fact, children are more disciplined at school as they are made to wear masks and are under watch. The virus is everywhere now, inside and outside homes,” said Dr. Benakappa, who is now the head of the Department of Paediatrics at the Dr. Chandramma Dayananda Sagar Institute of Medical Education and Research.