Over 2,237 children below 18 years test COVID-19 positive in two months in Manipur
Government must take swift action to set up special COVID care centres for children across the state, before the third wave strikes
Reeling under the second wave of COVID-19, Manipur is witnessing an increasing number of children being infected by Coronavirus even before the third wave sets in which experts say will have severe impact on children in India.
According to the state health department data, over 2,237 children have been confirmed COVID-19 positive in the past two months, while one child fatality was reported till May 23. However, the exact infected figure with specific age and death report of children in the state has not been shared in public domain yet.
As per a report published in several local newspapers, Manipur has started witnessing an increasing number of children being infected by COVID-19. However, not a single COVID care centre for children has been set up till date. In view of it, the state department of Social Welfare has requested the authority concerned for opening of special Covid care centres for children across the state.
In connection with the increasing rate of children testing positive in the state, Dr Sucheta of the state health department told this Imphal Free Press reporter over the phone that COVID-19 positive children are being kept in a common COVID care centre with one parent or guardian of the children. They take the consent of the parent to stay with the Covid positive child. In some hospitals, mothers have to accompany their children with severe symptoms, she said.
A few parents whose children were confirmed COVID-19 positive shared their experiences with this IFP reporter and how they are coping with the situation.
One mother who accompanied her 11-year-old son and is staying at a COVID care centre said that she is afraid of staying with an adult positive patient having a dry cough symptom. She feared her son, who has recovered from a cough recently, would get the cough again. The mother suggests a separate centre for children.
“It will be better if children who get infected and are asymptomatic can be kept at a special centre,” the mother said.
When asked about her health condition as she was exposed to the infection while staying with her son who tested positive, she said she also got a mild fever but tested negative. However, the doctor of the care centre asked her to get tested again after three days, she said.
“Who has no fear of COVID? Covid-19 worries all, but the mother or father or near and dear ones will not remain far from their children. Which is why for the sake of my son I am ignoring the fear," the mother said.
Another parent, who accompanied her six-year-old son to a private hospital, said, “My son suffered from a stomach infection so we had to rush him to a hospital. At the hospital, the doctor advised him to get COVID-19 test and he tested positive. He also suffered from a prolonged cough. He was put on medication and given intravenous fluids. He is now recovering".
The families affected by COVID-19 also face social stigma. A COVID-19 infected 14-year-old boy, who lost his father due to COVID-19, is in fear of stepping out and facing society. Although the boy has recovered and tested negative for the Coronavirus now, he is still scorned upon by the neighbours when he steps out on the road.
According to some experts, unlike in the past, children are more vulnerable because they are more exposed to outdoor activities, functions and gatherings, as also due to schools reopening for a certain age group, which was not the case earlier due to a strong lockdown.
Health experts across the country have warned that a third wave of the pandemic may infect children in India the most. The Supreme Court had also asked all the states and the Centre to make necessary arrangements for treatment of children in case they are infected by the mysterious virus.
As experts predict a severe impact of COVID-19 third wave on children, Manipur needs to upgrade its limited infrastructure for child healthcare and ensure proper preparation to fight the pandemic successfully.
States like Maharashtra and many places of the country such as Indore, Bengaluru and Delhi have set up dedicated COVID care centres for children. Some states have also started procuring paediatric ventilators and medicines for children as a precautionary measure to handle the third wave of COVID-19.
Apart from this, the healthcare facilities for children in the state are limited. It has become a matter of serious concern whether adequate healthcare service can be provided for children if the state is hit by the third wave of COVID-19.
Former Pediatric Association of Manipur (PAM) president Dr Shyamkumar Laishram told the media that PAM has started surveying the infrastructure for child healthcare service in the state. The kind of infrastructure found in the state for the treatment of children is very limited and would not be adequate to face the eventuality if the ongoing pandemic starts affecting children on a large scale.
As such, the state needs to take swift action to improve the infrastructure for child healthcare service and set up one COVID NICU and PICU from now onwards so that any kind of COVID eventuality may be handled with ease, suggested Dr Shyamkumar.
It may be mentioned that Chief Minister N Biren on Sunday announced that the state government has started a scheme - Chief Minister Bal Seva Scheme - to take care of children who have lost both their parents to COVID-19.
The chief minister also opened CM’s COVID-19 Grievance Cell with an aim to address mental distress being faced by several COVID-19 patients, especially those patients undergoing home isolation. The state has also developed the indoor halls of Bal Bhawan in Khuman Lampak Sports Complex for women Covid patients. But that may not be enough steps taken to flatten the rising curve of the pandemic in the state.
It may also be mentioned that in 2020, the state had as many as 3,019 Covid positive children and two minor deaths. There was no such special care centre for children. This year, within just two months, the total number of Covid-19 positive cases among children has risen to 2,237 till May 23. The number is expected to rise in the coming days, particularly when the third wave hits. Considering the prevailing situation in the state where the health infrastructure is still lacking in several aspects and the healthcare workers struggling to attend to the ever-increasing daily new cases, special treatment should be provided to children and a different approach or strategy of combating COVID-19 infection among children should be taken up by the government and all stakeholders.