More than 400,000 Covid-19 cases involving children below 18 were recorded this year compared to 12,000 last year, Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said today.
Of the total, 252,569 were school students while 42,831 involved preschool children.
More worryingly, he said, 67 deaths were recorded within this age group this year.
“It is our shared responsibility to make sure that children are protected from Covid-19 by ensuring a safe environment for them, including by taking the appropriate preventive and protective measures,” he said in his keynote address in conjunction with a webinar titled “Living with Covid-19: Children and Teenagers”.
He said the government had begun vaccinating those aged 12 to 17 in order to protect them from the virus.
According to the health ministry’s CovidNow portal, 43% or 1,352,870 teenagers had received at least one dose of vaccine as of yesterday.
Khairy said while vaccination would provide protection from the adverse effects of Covid-19, this alone was not enough. Instead, he said, people should continue to practise the new norms in order to avoid the risk of infection.
“Among the things we need to do and help our children practise is to wear a face mask at all times, wash our hands with soap or use hand sanitiser, stay home from school if they are symptomatic or have been in close contact with a Covid-19 patient, and conduct screening at school entrances,” he said.
He said such efforts would also prepare children and parents alike for the start of the school session.
He urged parents to encourage their children to follow the SOPs whether or not they have been vaccinated, and to cultivate a healthy lifestyle by staying active, eating healthy food and not smoking.
“Public health depends on the cooperation of everyone,” he said. “In the fight against Covid-19, no one is safe from infection until everyone is safe.”