Analysis shows children between 0-14 years less affected by COVID: Govt

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New Delhi, Mar 19 (PTI) Analysis shows that children in the age group of 0-14 years are less affected by COVID-19, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan informed the Lok Sabha on Friday.

He said in a written reply that infection among children is mild and most of them remain asymptomatic. 'Hence no specific action plan has been formulated in the current response phase to minimise the adverse effects of COVID-19 on such children,' he said.

Very rarely a severe illness, in form of multi-system inflammatory syndrome, has been identified, Vardhan said, adding this happens usually three to six weeks after the infection.

The Department of Pediatrics, AIIMS, is documenting the long term effect of COVID-19 infection in children, he said. The minister was responding to a question on whether the government had formulated any action plan to control and minimise the adverse effects of COVID-19 in children aged 0-14.

For appropriate management of COVID-19 cases, a three-tier arrangement of health facilities has been implemented -- COVID Care Centre with isolation beds for mild or pre-symptomatic cases, Dedicated COVID Health Centre (DCHC) with oxygen supported isolation beds for moderate cases and Dedicated COVID Hospital (DCH) with ICU beds for severe cases, he said. Guidelines on clinical management of COVID-19 have been issued, Vardhan said. They also provides for management of complications.

On whether the government has made any assessment of adverse effects of COVID-19 on mental health of children and has provided psychological support through healthcare professionals, Vardhan said the Ministry of Education has initiated a programme called 'manodarpan' covering a wide range of activities to provide psycho-social support to students, teachers and families for mental health and emotional wellbeing. There is a national toll-free helpline 8448440632 to provide tele-counselling for students, parents and teachers to help cope with the situation, he said.

The standard operating procedure for health and safety protocols for reopening of schools issued by the Ministry of Education has incorporated guidelines for promoting emotional well-being of students and teachers, the minister said. The Ministry of Health set up a 24/7 helpline through NIMHANS, Bangalore, on March 29, 2020 to provide psycho-social support to the affected population, divided into different target groups, Vardhan said.

Two central mental health institutions -- namely LGB Regional Institute of Mental Health, Tezpur and Central Institute of Psychiatry, Ranchi -- along with various states and UTs were also on-boarded to extend the services in regional and local languages. He said guidelines and advisories on management of mental health issues, catering to different segments of the society, were issued. All the guidelines, advisories and advocacy material can be accessed on the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare website under 'Behavioural Health – Psycho-social helpline', Vardhan said.

He further said that various media platforms were used for creative and audio-visual materials on managing stress and anxiety, and promoting an environment of support and care for all. To address the burden of mental disorders, Government of India is implementing the National Mental Health Programme (NMHP), Vardhan said, adding the government is supporting implementation of the District Mental Health Programme (DMHP) under NMHP in 692 districts of the country.

To generate awareness among masses about mental illnesses, Information, Education and Communication (IEC) activities are an integral part of the NMHP, he said, and at the District level, funds up to Rs 4 lakh per annum are provided under the DMHP for awareness generation activities, he said. PTI PLB AAR AAR