SINGAPORE – The number of children admitted to KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital (KKH) for both Covid-19 and non-Covid-19 related respiratory symptoms has doubled over the past seven weeks.
Responding to queries from The Straits Times on Thursday (Jan 27), Associate Professor Thoon Koh Cheng, head of the infectious disease service in the department of paediatrics at KKH, said there has been a doubling of such admissions since the start of December last year to the first three weeks of this month.
More children who need hospital admission are presented with Covid-19 symptoms that are “not mild”, he added.
Nearly half of these patients with symptoms that are not mild are under five years of age and do not yet qualify for Covid-19 vaccination, he noted, adding that the rest are mostly unvaccinated children aged between five and 12.
Last Friday (Jan 21), Singapore’s director of medical services Kenneth Mak said children aged below 12 are starting to make up the majority of Covid-19 cases that are admitted to hospitals.
Prof Mak added that KKH and National University Hospital (NUH) also reported that they are seeing more children with Covid-19 and non-Covid-19-related respiratory symptoms who require admission.
Without giving figures, Prof Thoon said the rate of increase in children admitted with Covid-19 and non-Covid-19 related respiratory symptoms is “about more than double in a week”.
He attributed the rise in children with non-Covid-19-related respiratory symptoms being admitted to hospital to “increasingly close and social contacts in the community, coupled with likely complacency from fatigue to pandemic restrictions”.
This comes amid a surge in local cases this month due to the more infectious Omicron variant.
A total of 17,699 children below the age of 12 have been infected with Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic, with 2,586 hospitalised, said Health Minister Ong Ye Kung in a Facebook post on Sunday (Jan 23).
On average, those admitted for Covid-19 at KKH and are able to return home as part of the Home Recovery Programme (HRP) stay for about two to three days, said Prof Thoon.
Those who are unable to return home for HRP can stay for up to seven days, he added.
While many children were admitted for Covid-19 related respiratory symptoms, this group makes up under half of hospital admissions for acute respiratory infections, he said.
“With Covid-19 cases, patients can experience a worsening of pre-existing asthma, bronchitis/bronchiolitis, croup, pneumonia along with high fever, febrile seizures and poor feeding with dehydration,” he added.
Among 14,380 children below 12 years old infected with the virus from Oct 1, 2021, to Jan 16, 2022, four had severe symptoms needing either oxygen supplementation or intensive care unit attention.
Prof Thoon said KKH has sufficient capacity to continue delivering a wide range of clinical services to women and children in Singapore in addition to supporting Covid-19 operations and has plans to accommodate more patients if needed.
For those under the HRP, KKH conducts video consultation, said Prof Thoon.
Responding to queries on whether children hospitalised for Covid-19 can be warded with parents, he said a registered caregiver is allowed to accompany the child throughout his or her stay as a Covid-19 inpatient.
He said: “Both are isolated in a single-room bedder isolation ward and not allowed to leave the room until the child is discharged for recovery at home or community facilities as guided by the Ministry of Health.”
The Straits Times has contacted NUH for comment about the rate of child hospitalisation for Covid-19.
This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.