SDHB child services prepared for Delta

Southern child health services do not expect to be overwhelmed once the more infectious Delta strain of Covid-19 arrives in Otago and Southland.

Children aged 0-9 are the third-most affected age bracket in the current outbreak of the disease, their 1620 infections making up 15% of all cases.

About 36% of all current Covid-19 cases in New Zealand are aged 0-19, mainly because children aged under 12 are not as yet eligible to receive the Covid-19 vaccine.

The Southern District Health Board is planning for the arrival of Delta in the region, and projects as many as 45,000 cases a year in the region as a worst, uncontrolled case scenario.

It expects some effective public health measures will be in place, but even in that event its modelling suggests the South could experience as many as 26,000 cases of Covid-19, about 8400 of them children.

SDHB acting clinical governance and quality executive director Hywel Lloyd said its modelling did not show a disproportionate number of youngsters contracting Covid-19.

"As such we are confident in our level of preparedness."

Dr Lloyd said it was likely that under 16s who contracted Covid-19 would be asked to follow the same process as adults, to isolate at home and be monitored remotely by primary care.

"The paediatric team will provide additional support to primary care through the usual advice channels," he said.

"Should young people require hospital-level care, they will likely be transported to Dunedin Hospital, as this is the hospital that will be best equipped to support people if they should become very unwell quickly."

In the current outbreak, 28 children under nine have so far needed hospitalisation, and 13 youngsters aged 10-19 — one of those people has required intensive care.

The South has one of the best adult vaccination rates in New Zealand, and two of its six regions have either reached 90% of people who are double vaccinated (Queenstown) or are on the verge of doing so (Dunedin).

mike.houlahan@odt.co.nz

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