COVID-19 rising among children as Indonesia crisis grows

Kate Lamb, Reuters

Posted at Jun 30 2021 06:50 PM


The number of Indonesian children contracting the coronavirus has almost tripled since May, with infant deaths from COVID-19 rising sharply as the country suffers its most severe wave of infections so far, a senior pediatrician said on Wednesday.

Indonesia has been hit by a surge in cases this month, with new records on six days since June 21 including a daily high of over 21,807 on Wednesday, putting pressure on the government to impose tighter measures.

Dr Aman Pulungan, head of Indonesia's pediatric society, said weekly child deaths from COVID-19 rose to 24 last week from 13 in the previous week, many under five years old.

That was a larger rate of increase than the overall rise in COVID-19 deaths from 1,783 to 2,476 fatalities nationwide over the same period.

Aman said infections among minors were rising fast.

"It is increasing now. In mid-May there was about 2,000 – 2,500 cases per week," said Aman. "Last week there was more than 6,000 cases."

The percentage of overall cases that were under 18 years of age has risen to 12.6% in June compared to 5% in July last year, according to official data, although Aman noted children were now being tested more.

President Joko Widodo this week announced that authorities had given a green light for children age 12 to 17 to be inoculated with the Sinovac vaccine.

Aman said pediatricians were already seeing cases of "long COVID" - debilitating and lingering symptoms months after infection - among Indonesian children.

He believed the rising infections among children was more likely pandemic fatigue and lack of knowledge than the impact of more transmissible variants.

"It's not the Delta variant, but the system," he said, referring to the variant first identified in India.

"Less testing, less tracing. And people still don't think that children can suffer and die from COVID. Awareness is still low."