Omicron Affecting Children More? South Africa Sees Cases Surge In Kids Under Five

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Omicron Affecting Children More?  The Omicron variant has led to a sharp surge in cases of COVID-19 in South Africa. However, scientists have learned that one age group has seen a bigger surge than others. With Omicron being the dominant variant in the country, experts have observed a sharp rise in cases of COVID-19 in children under the age of five. What’s more, this age group is now second only to people above the age of 60, in the coronavirus tally.

On December 4, South Africa, the country that first flagged concerns over the Omicron variant, recorded 16,055 infections and 25 deaths. In sync with global trends, cases of coronavirus in children, especially severe ones were low, as compared to other age groups in South Africa. The same was observed in India as well, even through the deadly second wave. However, South Africa saw a rise in hospital admissions of children during the third wave and it seems to be getting worse with the onset of the fourth wave in the country.

According to Dr Waasila Jassat of the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) said at a media briefing by Health Ministry on Friday, at the start of this fourth wave, the country is seeing a sharp increase across all age groups, but particularly in the under-fives.

The incidence in those under five is now second highest and second only to the incidence in those over 60: Dr Jassat.

“The trend that we are seeing now that is different from what we saw before is the particular increase in hospital admissions in children under five years,” Jassat added.

About Omicron variant

Last week, scientists from South Africa flagged a new variant of coronavirus which had as many as 50 mutations, sparking global concerns. The variant B.1.1.529 is said to have originated in a land-locked country of the African continent named Botswana, however, many European and other African nations also detected cases of new variant with help of genome sequencing. On November 26, the World Health Organisation released a statement, classifying B.1.1.529 as a “variant of concern”. Later, the variant was renamed Omicron.

On December 2, India reported two cases of Omicron variant- one of which was in a middle-aged doctor who had no travel history. Five contacts of the said person later tested positive for COVID-19.

According to a statement by the health ministry, the scale and magnitude of rise in cases and most importantly the severity of disease that will be caused by the variant is still not clear. The ministry also said that due to a high rate of vaccination and higher levels of exposure to the Delta variant in second wave, the severity of COVID-19 due to Omicron is expected to be low in the country.

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