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Children aged 5 to 11 have highest Covid-19 infection rates among all age groups: Ong Ye Kung

SINGAPORE — Of all age brackets, children and young people are the two groups with the highest Covid-19 infection rates, and more resources such as hospital beds have been set aside for them, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said on Tuesday (Feb 8). 

Children aged 5 to 11 have highest Covid-19 infection rates among all age groups: Ong Ye Kung

Children aged five to 11 at a vaccination centre in Our Tampines Hub in January 2022.

  • Children aged five to 11 have the highest Covid-19 infection rate now, followed by young people aged 12 to 19
  • In response, hospitals and Covid-19 treatment facilities have been setting up more beds for children and their caregivers
  • With case numbers high but ICU admissions relatively low, it may be possible to live with Covid-19, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said

SINGAPORE — Of all age brackets, children and young people are the two groups with the highest Covid-19 infection rates, and more resources such as hospital beds have been set aside for them, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said on Tuesday (Feb 8). 

Children aged five to 11 have the highest infection rate, at about 67 per 100,000 of the population, followed by young people aged 12 to 19, at an infection rate of about 55 per 100,000, Mr Ong said in a speech at the Singapore Health Quality Service Awards.

"This was quite different compared to during the Delta wave, which mostly infected older and working adults," he said in his speech, which was delivered at the Ngee Ann Kongsi Auditorium. 

TODAY has asked the Ministry of Health (MOH) for the infection rates for other age brackets.

Our public and private hospitals are standing up more beds for children.
Health Minister Ong Ye Kung

Mr Ong added that although the infection wave caused by the Omicron coronavirus strain has been registering daily cases several times that of the Delta variant, there have been fewer intensive care unit (ICU) patients, which makes living with Omicron a possibility. 

On Jan 21, MOH's director of medical services Kenneth Mak said that children under 12 had started to form the majority of Covid-19 cases admitted to hospitals. 

Mr Ong said that with more children and young people getting infected, severe cases are inevitable and there is a need to ensure that there are "sufficient beds for them”.

"Our public and private hospitals are standing up more beds for children," he said. He added that Covid-19 treatment facilities are also converting more beds for children and their caregivers. 

For instance, at one treatment facility, Connect@Changi, 660 such beds had been prepared. 

Mr Ong added that children hospitalisation due to Covid-19 is often precautionary in nature, with short stays of about two to three days.   

"Notwithstanding, it is important to get them vaccinated to protect them against the risk of severe illness should they get infected."  

Mr Ong also said that because of the "larger number of daily cases", the authorities have had to increase their "front-end public-facing operational capacity” such as by beefing up the number of personnel at call centres. 

The call centres are being manned by more call operators from outside of MOH, in the wider civil service, and also the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF). 

SAF was also called upon to help with the Covid-19 home recovery scheme during the surge in Covid-19 cases in September.  

LIVING WITH COVID-19

The current Omicron wave has seen daily cases that far outnumber those during the Delta wave. 

There were about 3,200 daily cases during the spread of the Delta variant, with about 170 ICU beds occupied by Covid-19 patients. 

"Now, with more than three times the number of daily cases, we have about 20 Covid-19 patients in ICU," Mr Ong said.

“While our healthcare workers are very busy, stretched (and) stressed, I think it is a different level of intensity as compared with during the Delta wave.” 

He added that it is "comforting and encouraging" that among the patients infected, the number of cases with severe clinical outcomes remains low despite the surge in cases.

"This means it is possible to live with Omicron," he said. 

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