Cape Town – Health Department statistics yesterday indicated that the age group between 10 and 19 accounts for 1 147 (4.2%) of the overall number of Covid-19 cases in the country.
The statistics also show that 755 children under the age of nine have contracted Covid-19. This accounts for 2.8% of the total number of cases, which now stands at 27 403.
Only two children under the age of nine have died, while there has been one fatality in the age group between 10 and 19, which was recorded on Tuesday.
In South Africa, according to the latest Health Department figures (see below), four people have died in the 20-29 age group; 33 in the 30-39 age group; 61 in the 40-49 age group; 144 in the 50-59 age group; 153 in the 60-69 age group; 113 in the 70-79 age group; 55 in the 80-89 age group; and 11 in the 90-99 age group.
With schools reopening for Grade 7 and 12 pupils on Monday, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga on Thursday expressed concern over "threats in the West Rand" and a "big threat in the Western Cape". The number of coronavirus cases could increase exponentially among pupils, even though only two grades will be resuming their classes at school.
She visited schools in Gauteng on Thursday to check on their readiness to commence teaching and will on Sunday be travelling to the Western Cape with President Cyril Ramaphosa to assess schools' readiness.
Motshekga is aware that a number of schools in different provinces may not be able to resume on-site teaching on Monday, but expected delays to last no longer than a week.
Schools in the identified hot spots in the Western Cape where there have been cluster outbreaks – Tygerberg, Khayelitsha, Klipfontein, Western (Dunoon) and Southern (Hout Bay) – will be Motshekga's main focus.
Teacher unions have lambasted Motshekga for opening schools "too early" and a large number have indicated that their members will not be reporting for duty on Monday.
"We were instructed on three principles, safety first, as the precondition. Second, make sure schools do not become centres of infection, and then education. So we will rely on schools and provinces to guide us on threats," Motshekga said.
A school will also not be allowed to operate if it does not have demarcated safe distances between pupils in the classroom, she said.
“There are going to be strict protocols from when students first enter the gates. There will be strict testing and if a school does not have a thermometer, it will not operate.
"If a school has not received its mask or other supplies, it will not operate,” Motshekga added.
Statistics have indicated that while young people are going to contract the disease, a not-insignificant percentage of them are going to get very sick and only a smaller number will die.
A study published on March 16 in the journal Pediatrics of more than 2 100 children in China found that children of all ages were vulnerable to Covid-19, though the vast majority experienced mild symptoms and some experienced none at all.
In Spain, out of 221 cases for people aged 10 to 19, 15 of them have been hospitalised, a 7 percent rate; none have ended up in intensive care. One person in this age range died in Spain, a 0.4 percent fatality rate.
Italy and South Korea reported no fatalities for this group by the middle of March. China reported that 0.2 percent of cases for people aged 10 to 19 end in death.
The main concern experts have expressed when it comes to younger people, though, is that they could still spread the disease to older generations, who are more at risk of critical illness.
The distribution of Covid-19 positive cases by age, according to yesterday's Health Department statistics:
Data supplied by the Department of Health * For the latest on the Covid-19 outbreak, visit IOL's special #Coronavirus page.