Over 260 children are currently infected with COVID-19, meaning some 10 per cent of active cases involve minors, according to public health chief Charmaine Gauci.

Replying to Times of Malta readers’ questions in her fortnightly column Ask Charmaine, Gauci said the number of cases in children peaked around March 3.

The peak in the cases among minors occurred a week before a record number of new cases were detected overnight on March 10.

That day, hours after 510 people were confirmed positive for the virus, the government announced it would again be ordering schools to close for a month. All non-essential shops were also shuttered until April 11.

According to Gauci, the number of children with the virus “remained sustained” until around March 12 before starting to go down again.

The numbers have been dropping across all age groups apart from the 0 to 5

“The numbers have been dropping across all age groups apart from the 0 to 5, which has remained consistent.  

“From the current active cases we have – 2,500 – there are 263 children aged up to 17 years,” Gauci said.

Children continue to have milder symptoms when compared to adults with the coronavirus, she said.

The decision to close schools for a month came just weeks after the health authorities had insisted keeping schools open was beneficial because such a move would help control spread among children.

Gauci and her team, as well as the education authorities, had made the same argument during a row with the teachers’ unions in January. 

The U-turn on this position has been blamed on the rapid spread of the so-called UK variant, a highly transmissible strain of the novel coronavirus that puts young people at the same risk of getting the virus as adults.

Epidemiologist Neville Calleja had told Times of Malta that with the original strain minors were at less risk than adults because they were less likely to get infected.

However, he said, the worrying change because of the variant could have a devastating effect on the community.

Meanwhile, Health Minister Chris Fearne said the government would soon announce details for those aged between 55 and 59 to get their vaccination. Instead of getting invited to get the jab, those in this age group will be able to register themselves.

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