Surge in number of Covid-19 cases and deaths among children in Malaysia

Covid-19 cases involving children in Malaysia leapt to 310,004 as at the end of August. PHOTO: REUTERS

KUALA LUMPUR - Concern is mounting in Malaysia as the number of children succumbing to Covid-19 surges, with parents especially worried because schools are due to reopen in just two weeks.

Covid-19 cases involving children leapt to 310,074 as at the end of August, which is 25 times more than the whole of last year. The number was only 12,620 last year.

A total of 41 children have died so far this year, compared with just six in 2020, the health ministry said on Sept 2.

Reports of unusual symptoms among children have also surfaced online.

On Sept 8, one Penang-based doctor claimed on Instagram that she had attended to two children within the same week who could not walk after becoming infected with Covid-19.

The doctor said one of the cases involved a four-year-old girl who had a seizure a week after recovering from Covid-19. Three days later, the child's mother reported that her daughter could not walk properly.

Both children were healthy and normal before they caught Covid-19, said the doctor.

Malaysia has fully vaccinated 76.8 per cent of its adult population but most children have not been inoculated even though schools are to reopen in stages from Oct 3.

The vaccination of teenagers officially kickstarted on Sept 8 but has been carried out only in a handful of states, such as Sarawak, beginning with those aged between 16 and 17 as well as those between 12 and 15 with comorbidities. Sabah began vaccinating teenagers on Friday (Sept 17).

Some politicians are urging the government to ramp up the vaccination of adolescents, particularly in states with a high number of cases such as Sarawak which is reporting some 3,000 infections daily.

This is because "the spillover of the current surge of cases may affect them, potentially causing the next Delta wave to be among our children that are yet to be vaccinated", Democratic Action Party lawmaker Kelvin Yii said in a statement on Monday. He was referring to the highly transmissible Delta variant of the coronavirus.

The member for parliament for the Bandar Kuching constituency in Sabah described children and those yet to be vaccinated as "vulnerable and exposed".

Three of Ms Amanda Sanusi's five unvaccinated children aged between 12 and 17 have contracted Covid-19.

The 43-year-old project manager, who is fully vaccinated, and her children, who live in Kuala Lumpur, were infected by her husband who tested positive on Sept 6.

"The vaccination roll-out for teens is too slow. They should have looked at other countries which started earlier with no adverse effects, and vaccinated kids here before opening up the economic sectors," she told The Straits Times.

Malaysia has been struggling to contain a resurgence in Covid-19 but has begun reopening parts of the economy, including the tourism sector.

The country's total caseload hit 2,067,327 on Friday and the number of daily cases reported was 17,577.

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