Covid patients aged under 2 have highest admission rate in South African epicentre

Increase in admissions among very young 'could be precautionary', says doctor

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Children aged 2 and under make up the highest percentage of Covid-19 patients admitted to hospital in Gauteng, the South African epicentre of the outbreak.

Pubic health spokeswoman Dr Waasila Jassat said the country was starting to see a “slight increase” nationally in the number of admissions.

However, there had been “significant increases” over the past two weeks in the province of Gauteng, from 18 admissions a day to 49.

The new Omicron variant has rapidly overtaken Delta to become the dominant variant in Gauteng, a province that accounts for the vast majority of the country's cases.

There were about 455 admissions from November 11 to 28 in the Gauteng city of Tshwane, where eight people have died, Dr Jassat said during a televised government media briefing on Monday.

In Tshwane, which has recorded the highest increases in admissions, there has been “a very sharp increase”, particularly in the past 10 days, she said.

“When you look at the numbers of admissions by age, what we normally see is a large number of admissions in older people,” she added.

“But in this early resurgence in Tshwane, we are seeing most admissions in the 0-2 age group.

“And we are seeing a large number of admissions in the middle ages, sort of around 28 to 38.”

She said “very high proportions” of young children were being admitted — more than 70 per cent of cases in the 4-and-under age group.

The percentage was much lower in other child age groups, at about 10 per cent in children aged 5 to 9 and slightly less for the age 10-19 group.

However, the percentage of young children admitted with comorbidities, or underlying conditions, was “quite low,” at about 1 per cent.

More than 5 per cent of children aged 5 to 9 who were admitted had underlying conditions, she said. The percentage was slightly less for the 10-to-19 group.

Almost 30 per cent of children aged 4 or under had “severe disease”. The percentage of those admitted with severe disease was slightly higher for the five-to-nine age group, at more than 30 per cent. It was slightly less for the age 10-19 group at about 27 per cent.

“The increase in admissions in young children under 2 could just be precautionary. We don’t have enough information yet,” said Dr Jassat.

“But the indications are not that they are more severe than they have been in the past.

“I think what’s important for us to note is that while we do hospital surge preparedness, this time we may need to look at paediatric preparedness, especially.”

There were eight deaths in the two weeks from November 14 to 28.

Most occurred in older groups, aged 60 to 69. About 1.5 per cent of children aged 4 and under admitted to hospital died. There were no deaths among children aged 5 to 19 in the two-week period.

“It doesn’t look at the moment like there is any increase in severity, but it is early. Admissions do lag about two weeks after cases and it takes some time for patients to have an outcome, so this is something we will watch and give more information in the coming weeks,” said Dr Jassat.

The “vast majority” of those admitted to hospital were unvaccinated.

Updated: November 30, 2021, 8:47 AM