Indonesia is reportedly among the countries with the highest COVID-19 death rate among children, surpassing the United States, the world's worst-hit country by the pandemic.
KawalCOVID-19, a volunteer group that independently records virus case numbers and deaths in Indonesia, recorded a case fatality rate (CFR) among children, or people aged 17 years and younger, was currently at 0.9 percent, or 45 times higher than in the United States, which was at 0.02 percent.
The CFR is defined as the proportion of infections resulting in death. KawalCOVID-19 co-founder Ainun Najib said that, according to national COVID-19 task force data, the CFR among Indonesian children aged 0-17 years was 0.9 percent.
“That means that 145 of 16,007 infected children of the age group have died,” Ainun told The Jakarta Post on Thursday.
In comparison, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported on Thursday that 0.02 percent of all child COVID-19 cases resulted in death, or 82 children had died from a total of 355,123 COVID-19 cases in children aged 0-17 years in the US.
According to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, the US is still the world's coronavirus epicenter with more than 6.1 million cases and 185,000 deaths, while Indonesia recorded more than 184,000 cases and 7,700 deaths.
In a separate statement issued on Monday, the Indonesian Pediatric Society (IDAI) noted that the country’s rate was higher than the rates in China and Italy, each of which stood below 0.1 percent, as well as Europe, where the rate was 0.3 percent.
The percentage of child deaths per total COVID-19 deaths is also high in Indonesia. Children accounted for 1.9 percent of all COVID-19 deaths in which victims’ age were provided, which exceeded 7,000 on Thursday, official data show.
Child deaths in the US, meanwhile, only accounted for 0.06 percent of 136,683 COVID-19 deaths, the CDC reported.
IDAI chairman Aman Bhakti Pulungan said most of the child deaths in the country occurred because of late treatment and comorbidity factors.
Aman said that, because COVID-19 symptoms may resemble those of other illnesses common among children, like diarrhea and pneumonia, and because of a lack of awareness, among other factors, such cases ended up being treated like other diseases.
Given the high share of children among COVID-19 fatalities in the country, concerns have been raised over the government’s plan to allow more schools in low-risk areas to reopen.
“[The situation] is not yet safe for children to go back to school. Many schools are not ready with the health protocol, not to mention that many people are still not complying with the health protocol,” said Ainun.
According to a Federation of Indonesian Teachers Associations (FSGI) survey published in June, around 53.4 percent of schools in 34 provinces across the country say they are not ready to resume face-to-face teaching due to a lack of infrastructure and funds.
For the reopening, the Education and Culture Ministry requires that schools have clean toilets, handwashing facilities, disinfectant, infrared thermometers and access to health facilities.
Schools are furthermore required to limit the number of students per classroom to 18, or roughly 50 percent of the normal capacity. Meanwhile, students have to adhere to physical distancing measures and wear masks.