Over 100 children die of COVID as Indonesia grapples with Delta variant

Hundreds of children — including those aged 5 or less — are dying every week as the nation turns the new pandemic epicentre

Indonesia, state of emergency, Coronavirus outbreak, coronavirus COVID-19
Indonesia recorded 45,416 new COVID cases on Sunday, overtaking Brazil, India and the US. (Representational image)

Indonesia recorded 45,416 new COVID cases on Sunday, overtaking Brazil (38,091), India (39,742) and the US (37,245) in terms of fresh infections, Worldometer data revealed. While the Southeast Asian nation is faring better in terms of total cases and fatalities, at 3,166,505 and 83,279, respectively, an alarming trend is witnessed — children are increasingly falling prey to the virus.

A New York Times report said hundreds of children in the archipelago have died of COVID in recent weeks. Quite a few of these were younger than 5. The child mortality rate due to COVID in Indonesia is far higher than in other nations, the report said.

This casts doubt on the widely held — though not scientifically proven — belief that children face less risk from COVID as against young adults and adults. July alone has seen over 100 children’s deaths a week, said NYT.

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While no correlation can be drawn, the spike in child fatalities is occurring along with a surge in total number of cases attributed to the Delta variant of the SARS-CoV-2.

Citing reports from paediatricians, the NYT report said children now account for 12.5% of Indonesia’s confirmed COIVD cases, a substantial rise against the previous months. In the week ended July 12 alone, over 150 children died of the infection, it said, adding that over 70 fatalities were of those aged 5 or less.

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While the country has lost over 800 children to the pandemic since its onset, most of those were recorded in the past month, said NYT. It further said the country’s low vaccination rate may be behind the surge in caseload as well as children’s infections.

Loose restrictions

Meanwhile, even as it is turning the new epicentre of the contagion, Indonesia has not tightened its lockdown norms. President Joko Widodo on Sunday said existing ‘loose’ COVID curbs will be extended for another week until August 2. Traditional markets, street shops and warungs (open-air restaurants), among other businesses, have been allowed to operate since Monday, July 27, in almost all areas including COVID ‘hotspots’, said media reports.

The government’s decision came despite healthcare experts cautioning authorities against eased curbs, which they said could trigger one more COVID wave. The World Health Organization (WHO) has also urged Indonesia to tighten COVID curbs.

“Restrictions must be in place for a minimum of four weeks and (the government) needs to increase testing, tracing and treatment to have maximum results,” news agency AFP quoted Dicky Budiman, an Indonesia epidemiologist at Australia’s Griffith University, as saying. “Otherwise, it’s just the same as having no restrictions.”

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