125 of total cases are children below 13 years so far 

At least one child is testing positive in the ongoing Covid-19 outbreak that has now infected 499 people in the country. The country so far has recorded 1,724 confirmed cases out of which 125 are children below the age of 13 years.

As reflected in the health ministry’s Covid-19 dashboard, everyday a child is testing positive for the virus. As per records with the ministry, 87 children equal to or below 13 years old have tested positive this year as of June 2.

This means, close to 9 percent of the total cases detected this year (1,054 since January 1, 2021) are children below the age of 13 years. The youngest so far is a month-year-old infant, detected with the virus on June 4.

In comparison, 35 children in the same age group tested positive for Covid-19 last year.

If the current outbreak is affecting more children is not yet confirmed.  Experts, however, said that because the total number of cases had increased in the current outbreak, children contracting the disease had also subsequently increased.

Member of technical advisory group (TAG) Dr Tshokey said that in the ongoing outbreak, entire families were testing positive. “So, when both parents or other members of the family are testing positive, the probability of the child in the house testing positive is also very high.”

Some paediatricians Kuensel spoke to said that although the numbers of child cases had increased this year, considering the total number of confirmed cases (1,724) in the country, the number of paediatric cases (125) were minimum.

Also, doctors said that the majority of the cases detected during the current outbreak including children are reported to be asymptomatic. “However, this doesn’t mean that we can all relax.   

As numbers increase, there is pressure to treat and monitor the cases and when numbers increase exponentially, the health system could collapse,” said a doctor.

He said that if the outbreak is not contained soon, there would be more cases and many would develop severe symptoms and might also require intensive care. “This would also include paediatric cases. Like all severe Covid-19 cases, it would be really difficult, if not more, to deal with such cases.”

Doctors also cautioned that children remained more vulnerable to contracting the disease and developing more severe symptoms in absence of a vaccine.

In the meantime, all children testing positive have been isolated along with their parents at the hospitals or isolation facilities. This was because even the parents had tested positive for the virus.

Meanwhile, observers say that children are becoming vulnerable because of parent’s behaviour. “Children are innocent. It is parents who are putting children at risk because of their behaviour,” said one. “Many could have believed the first dose of the vaccine made them immune to the virus going by their behaviour.”


8.5% of reported cases globally are in children

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), data so far suggest that children under the age of 18 years represent about 8.5 percent of reported cases globally, with relatively few deaths compared to other age groups and usually mild symptoms.

However, cases of critical illness have also been reported. In rare cases, children have also been reported to have become very sick with Covid-19 including some deaths.

As neighbouring India continues to battle a contagious second wave of the pandemic, several experts have already warned about a third wave, which is likely to affect more children, as Singapore has already been reporting.

Although there are no confirmations yet, the new mutations, particularly the Delta variant (B.1.617.2) of SARS-CoV-2 virus have been reported to be affecting younger children in countries like Singapore.

Bhutanese experts also believe that the ongoing outbreak in the country is caused by the same Delta variant of the virus, which could mean that increasing infant and child’s cases in the country could be linked to this factor.

By Younten Tshedup 

Edited by Tshering Palden