Orphanages in the northeastern Indian state of Tripura are slowly turning into coronavirus hotspots, raising concerns among the authorities. At least 36 girls aged 5-16 and eight caretakers at two orphanages tested positive for the virus in a span of three days there.
Thirty-two of those infected minors live in a private orphanage, the Jawaharlal Nehru Balika Niwas, and four others live at a state-run facility. The minors have been kept in isolation within the facility and are said to be asymptomatic. The children at the homes were tested under the ongoing rapid antigen tests (RAT) being conducted in the state.
"The state government has taken all measures to provide treatment to the infected persons. In the second wave, children are also testing positive for the virus. We are monitoring the situation, and all the homes have been asked to take measures to avert the spread", Dr Deep Debbarma, the state's COVID surveillance officer told EastMojo. The state government has implemented a "Corona curfew" in the capital Agartala from 17-26 May to contain the spread of the virus.
As per India's Ministry of Health, from 1 January to 21 April, at least 644,000 people under the age of 20 were affected by the virus. According to paediatricians, children affected by COVID-19 in the first phase remained asymptomatic, making it difficult to detect.
Meanwhile, the Tripura High Court while hearing a case on the COVID-19 preparedness of the state, observed that there is a high rate of infection in state-run orphanages and asked the government to conduct a maximum number of tests.
"The young children who are housed in these orphanages need special protection. The state government will ensure maximum possible testing of these children, particularly considering the fact that in recent times the number of positive cases reported in these orphanages has been quite high", the court observed.
In the northern state of Uttarakhand, around 1,000 children below the age of 9 have contracted coronavirus in the last ten days, according to the state Health Department. The state had recently hosted the Maha Kumbh event where over 3 million devotees participated, tossing COVID-19 protocols out the window. The gathering was termed a "super spreader" event after many devotees tested positive upon returning home.
The Indian Health Ministry has since released a set of guidelines for detecting and treating COVID-19 symptoms in children at home. While most remain asymptomatic or show mild symptoms, the government has asked parents to look out for symptoms such as fever, cough, shortness of breath, diarrhoea, and loss of smell.