Until now, Covid-19 had a lower incidence and mortality rate in children than in adults. But the new strains of the virus found in the UK – with over 70% infection capacity – have raised concerns regarding children's vulnerability.
Epidemiologists and virologists fear that this new strain of the coronavirus is more contagious in children than the previous one.
Professor Neil Ferguson from Imperial College London told journalists on Monday that data on infections across the southeast showed the new variant of the virus had a statistically significant higher rate of infection among children than other strains, reads a METRO report.
He said, "There is a hint that it has a higher propensity to infect children. That may perhaps explain some of the differences but we have not established any sort of causality on that, but we can see that in the data.
"There is no evidence that the new strain – called VUI 202012/01 – is more deadly or causes more severe illness, and symptoms to look out for are the same."
But scientists have "high confidence" that the virus can spread easier, based on current evidence.
Professor Dr Nazrul Islam, noted virologist and a member of the National Technical Advisory Committee on Covid-19, told The Business Standard, "The new strain of the coronavirus is much more contagious and is affecting children more than before, which is worrying because so far children were in a somewhat advantageous condition from the infection of this virus. Now we have to be more careful about children."
Nazrul Islam said schools were open in London, so more infections were found among children. In our country, schools are closed, but parents are roaming around with their children, which also increases the risk of infection.
He called for an immediate halt to flights to and from the United Kingdom and South Africa to prevent new coronavirus strains from entering the country.
"We are struggling to cope with the previous strain of coronavirus. The new strain will increase patient pressure in hospitals. As the new strain of coronavirus becomes more contagious, the death rate will also increase as the number of patients increases," he added.
Professor Wendy Barclay, British virologist and a member of the government's New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group, said, "We are not saying that this is a virus which specifically targets children or is any more specific in its ability to infect children, but we know that Covid-19 was not as efficient in affecting children as it was in adults."
She said one idea was that the new strain was better able to connect with human cells to infect them meaning that where the virus had previously struggled to infect children they were now "on a more level playing field" with adults in terms of infection, reports the Independent.
Professor Tahmina Shirin, director of the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research, told TBS that children have been infected with coronavirus before. It is said the risk of infecting children is higher with the new strain. It is more concerning if it is true. Now there is no alternative to following the hygiene rules. Now that family members are walking around with children, the risk is even greater.
She urged parents to be more vigilant about children as much as possible.
According to the Directorate General of Health Services, 3% of children in the country have tested Covid-19 positive as of now.
So far, 34 children between 0-10 years old and 56 children between 11-20 years old have died – which is 0.46% and 0.76%, respectively.
Dr Jahidur Rahman, assistant professor of the virology department of Shaheed Suhrawardy Medical College and Hospital, told The Business Standard that now passengers coming to the country from London have to undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine.
"If any one of them is Covid-19 positive, they have to do genome sequencing. Genome sequencing is very rare in the country. Now we need to sequence the genome of coronavirus according to our total capacity so that new strains can be identified when they enter the country. Otherwise, the situation will be more difficult to deal with," he added.