Children under 12 not allowed out despite lifting of dine-in ban

File photo for illustration only. Photo credit: Pixabay

KUCHING, Sept 17: Children below the age of 12-years-old are still not allowed to be out in public, open and crowded places including eateries and coffeeshops even though dine-ins will resume for southern districts in Sarawak from Monday (Sept 20) onwards.

The State Disaster Management Committee (SDMC) confirmed that the movement restriction for young children still applies throughout Sarawak under any phase of the National Recovery Plan (NRP), while high-risk groups are also discouraged from going out.

Children under 12 are not yet eligible to be vaccinated and this puts them at continued high risk of exposure to Covid-19, especially with the hyper infectious Delta variant now rampant in the State.

On Aug 17, SDMC advisor Dato Sri Dr Sim Kui Hian raised concerns that the Delta variant has caused more young children to be infected than other variants during the pandemic.

He reported that a total of 832 children below the age of six had been infected with Covid-19 between Aug 1 and 12, while there were 773 cases aged between seven and 12-years-old and 673 cases were between 13 and 17-years-old.

While children and teenagers may only experience mild symptoms, the Minister for Local Government and Housing warned that there were still a lot of unknown factors when it comes to the long-term effects of Covid-19 on children including pediatric inflammatory multisystem syndrome (PIMS).

In addition, University Malaya Medical Centre (UMMC) consultant pediatric cardiologist Associate Prof Dr Norazah Zahari has also raised concerns that children are most at risk in the ‘pandemic of the unvaccinated’.

It was reported by Bernama that doctors pointed out that more children are being hospitalised for Covid-19 now compared to any other time of this ongoing pandemic as the highly contagious Delta strain becomes more dominant in Malaysia.

Dr Norazah reported that there have been cases where children needed to be warded in the intensive care unit (ICU) due to complications to the heart due to Covid-19.

An epidemiologist at Universiti Malaya Associate Prof Dr Mas Ayu Said concurred: “When there is a pocket of people who cannot get vaccinated, they are very vulnerable – the children, the adolescents.”

“If you don’t have antibodies at all, it’s much easier (to get infected), like you’ve opened the gate so they’re (the virus) just coming in.”

Other countries, some of which have been inoculating their adults and youths for months, are also seeing more cases of unvaccinated children hospitalised with Covid-19 caused by the Delta variant. Possibly more infectious than measles, there is tentative data that indicates the strain may cause more severe infection.

Worse, vaccinated people can also get infected and transmit the virus although for a shorter duration and at a lower rate than unvaccinated people.

Currently, Sarawak is on track to complete the vaccination drive for 16 and 17-years-old by Oct 3 to prepare them for the reopening of schools, and the vaccination programme will continue for 12 to 15-years-old after.

Therefore, getting more eligible people to be vaccinated is critical to not only protect themselves but also to protect those who are unvaccinated.

Meantime, it is important to keep unvaccinated children safe with a layered approach including avoidng public places and group activities, wearing of face masks, practicing physical distancing and high standards of hygiene.— DayakDaily