The number of South African children younger than nine admitted to hospital with Covid-19 has overtaken the proportion of patients aged over 80 for the first time, the country’s biggest health insurer said.
During South Africa’s fifth wave of coronavirus infections from 13 April to 27 May, 17% of all Covid-19 related admissions were children in that age group, Johannesburg-based Discovery Health said in a statement sent to Bloomberg that detailed the results of a study of its members. That exceeded admissions for people older than 80 by five percentage points.
The jump in admissions is a marked change from the first three upsurges in infections when admissions of children were very low.
While the proportion of young patients rose in the fourth wave, it was similar to the number of people over 80 who were admitted, Discovery said.
“Discovery data show very low rates of admission to hospital for severe Covid-19 during the country’s first, second and third waves,” Ryan Noach, Discovery Health’s chief executive officer, said in the statement. “This picture has changed in recent months.”
South Africa’s first three Covid-19 waves were driven by the original strain of the virus and the beta and delta variants respectively. The fourth was caused by the emergence of the omicron variant while the fifth, which is now tapering off in South Africa, is attributed to the spread of the BA.4 and BA.5 omicron sublineages.