It seems the COVID-19 pandemic is now playing a trick with the life of people. One year after it killed more than 2.9 million people worldwide, the novel coronavirus disease has changed its genetic code and become stronger and smarter. Its double mutant has strengthened its capacity to surpass the antibodies and immune defences of people. This has posed a new challenge to medical science because the new variant spread 50 per cent to 70 per cent faster than its earlier form. What is more worrisome fact is that the mutating form of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 has developed higher propensity to infect the children. Earlier, the coronavirus was supposed to transmit to mainly adult population. But the medical myth that the children are normally immune from the deadly virus has been shattered as a large number of them have been diagnosed with its mutant strains. Virologists are scratching their heads as to why the virus has undergone genetic alterations and is attacking more kids than the grown-ups.
With the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic underway, Nepal has also witnessed the rising number of infections in the school-going children. Health experts and authorities are calling for immediate measures to save the life of tender population. According to the news report of this daily, more than 10 per cent of children below 18 years of age are infected with the virus on a daily basis as of now. Of 940 cases detected on Friday, more than 80 cases involved children below 18 years. Experts believe that most of these infected children are school students who are generally found not cooperating in providing their swab for the virus test. Even the parents often hesitate to test their children’s swab.
The UK variant of novel coronavirus known as B.1.1.7 has been attributed to over 60 per cent of the new infections in Nepal. Most of those infected children, with no symptoms, have developed pneumonia but in symptomatic cases, they have suffered fever, cold, dry cough, loose motion, vomiting, fatigue and loss of appetite, among others, while some have breathing problems. It is wise that the parents rush their kids to COVID-19 designated hospitals to have a Real Time PCR test without delay if their wards develop the above signs. Timely tests ensure the early treatment and stop the spread of virus. Now children lack access to anti-COVID-19 vaccine so the adoption of the precautionary measures is a must to protect them from the killer disease. Parents and teachers should encourage the students to maintain social-distancing, wear face masks and wash hands. The children should be restricted from mingling into crowds.
The Ministry of Health and Population (MoHP) has time and again recommended shutting down schools in the worst-affected districts. The other day Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli sought cooperation from political parties and bodies concerned to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. Meanwhile, the COVID-19 Crisis Management Centre (CCMC) has decided to recommend to the government to suspend physical classes of all academic institutions in urban areas where new COVID-19 variants have been detected. It has asked to teach students through alternative methods at least till mid-May. In view of rapid surge of virus, educational institutes are required to adopt alternative methods for teaching-learning activities to rein in the raging virus that has threatened the health of hundreds of thousands of children.