COVID-19 deaths rare in children, NICD confirms

Thursday, July 2, 2020

The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) has confirmed that children are less likely to die of COVID-19, while the disease is usually mild among school-going kids, aged between five and 18.

Even though Coronavirus may be less severe in children compared to adults, the newly published NICD report has stressed the importance of implementing and strengthening non-pharmaceutical interventions.

These include wearing masks, physical distancing and hand washing or sanitising within schools to prevent children from contracting SARS-CoV2.

“The number of deaths in this population is small but any severe illness in children in this age group is concerning, and steps to minimise COVID-19 transmission, such as physical distancing and use of masks, should be consistently applied where possible, even among children,” the report said.

The NICD said the data highlights that the burden of COVID-19 disease is lower in young children compared to adults.

“Among the COVID-19 admissions in children, the median age at admission was lower than that among all diagnosed cases younger than 18 years, which may suggest that severe disease may be more common among younger children or that clinicians are more likely to admit younger children as a precaution.”

The research also found newborns may have been warded for birth-related complications or precautionary reasons, rather than COVID-19-related illness.

The NICD said asthma was the most frequently reported comorbidity in infected children, followed by current and past tuberculosis.

However, the analysis shows that the children who lost their lives had other severe comorbidities and the role of COVID-19 in disease progression is unclear, the NICD explained.

“COVID-19 is uncommon in South African children, including among school-going children aged five to 18 years and when it occurs, it is milder than in adults.”

The NICD said this was encouraging now that schools are preparing to welcome more grades from 6 July.

“Describing the epidemiology of COVID-19 in children in South Africa is important to inform prevention strategies of COVID-19 and to assist policymakers in making informed decisions about enforcing or relaxing some of the COVID-19 prevention regulations currently in place or being planned, such as the reopening of schools.”

According to the Department of Health’s recent statistics released on Wednesday, of the 2 749 COVID-19 related deaths recorded since the outbreak, three are children between the ages of zero and nine, while seven are between 10 and 19 years. –