KUALA LUMPUR: More than 400,000 cases of COVID-19 infection involving individuals under 18 years old were reported in Malaysia this year, said Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin on Thursday (Sep 30).
The number is much higher than about 12,000 cases recorded in 2020.
According to the minister in his keynote address at a webinar on “Living With Covid-19: Children and Teenagers”, the total included 252,569 schoolchildren and 42,831 pre-schoolers, Bernama reported.
There were also 67 deaths, compared to six last year.
"It is our joint responsibility to ensure children are protected from COVID-19 by ensuring a safe environment for them, including taking appropriate preventive and protective measures," said Mr Khairy, as quoted by Bernama.
On Thursday, Malaysia recorded 12,735 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total to over 2.2 million. There have been more than 26,000 deaths.
Close to 86 per cent of the adult population has been fully vaccinated so far in the national immunisation programme launched in February.
Children and teenagers between 12 and 17 years old began to receive their COVID-19 jabs on Sep 20. The government targeted to vaccinate 80 per cent of them before schools reopen in 2022.
Based on data from the Ministry of Health, the government has given 43 per cent or 1.35 million of individuals aged between 12 and 17 at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine as of Wednesday.
In his speech, Mr Khairy said although the vaccination provided protection from the adverse effects of COVID-19, having the vaccination alone was not enough.
Instead, people needed to continue observing the new normal practices to avoid the risk of infection, including wearing face masks and practising daily hygiene, he said.
"Among the things we need to do and make a practice among children are wearing face masks all the time, washing hands with soap or using hand sanitiser, not attending school if they are symptomatic or close contacts of COVID-19 patients, and undergo screening at the school entrance,” he added.
Health Ministry director-general Noor Hisham Abdullah had on Sep 20 said that the increasing trend of COVID-19 infection among children below 18 years old in Malaysia was worrying.
He said with the immunisation programme, the health ministry hoped that the risk of infection in schools could be reduced and in turn prevent the occurrence of cases and clusters in schools.
“In this regard, parents and guardians are advised to register their eligible children, through their respective educational institutions and through the MySejahtera application, for vaccination, immediately,” he was quoted as saying by Bernama.