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Spike in COVID cases in kids casts doubt over lockdown end date

James Mitchell
06 September 2021 1 minute readShare
Spike in kids COVID cases

COVID cases in young children have grown five times faster than in over-60s in past two months, raising doubts Australia can reopen before Christmas, with only 80% of adults vaccinated.

Provocate’s upcoming VaxEnomicTM Forecaster for business shows children and teens (0–19, 5,554) also accounted for more new cases nationally than over-40s combined (4095+; 5,510) since the national cabinet decided to start reopening domestic and international borders at 70% and 80% of adults fully vaccinated.

Provocate managing director Troy Bilsborough said the politics of sick children meant business should be cautious banking on a December quarter reopening, even if adult vaccination targets were met.

Mr Bilsborough, a former senior adviser to the Federal Health & Aged Care Minister (2014–2017), said reopening would ultimately rely on the federal government having to mount a “chicken pox defence — better to catch it young than old” — a difficult task with a federal election looming between now and May.

Mr Bilsborough recommended the national cabinet agree on a hard date, such as 80% of first adult doses, to reassess current targets and avoid any last-minute political capitulations and Christmas cancellations.

“Australia’s major capital cities have been in a state of rolling lockdowns since the federal budget was handed down in May at a cost of over $2 billion per week to the economy,” Mr Bilsborough said.

“It’s therefore logical that both the national budget — and those of business — cannot afford to remain closed during the December quarter, which is likely to decide whether Australia re-enters recession.”

However, children’s COVID cases have also grown by 131% — faster than any other age group — in the two months since.

Mr Bilsborough said current national cabinet plans for reopening at 80% assume the economic risk of keeping international borders and businesses closed is greater than children catching — and dying — from COVID.

“Fully vaccinating 70% and 80% of adults also only equals 56% and 64% of the whole population, leaving 4 million children at increased exposure to COVID without the same vaccine protections,” he said.

“As logical as low child COVID death rates may be, business must account for the fact no federal government wants to enter an election being accused of creating a generation of COVID kids.

“Ultimately, electionomics, not epidemiologists and economists, will end up deciding whether Australia reopens state and international borders before Christmas without children vaccinated.”

Overall, young people under 19 made up one-third of the 17,780 new COVID cases between 29 June 2021 and 28 August 2021 — when the Delta strain started taking hold in Sydney — seeing national cases increase from 30,562 to 48,342 (55%).

The number of children’s cases increased from 1,700 to 3,933 (0–9; 131% increase) and 2,500 to 5,520 (1019, 121% increase) to the fourth and fifth-highest number of cases by age group, respectively. The highest number of cases remains in young people aged 2029 (10,603, 58% increase), 3039 (8,452, 54% increase) and 4049 (5,946, 52% increase).

Spike in COVID cases in kids casts doubt over lockdown end date
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James Mitchell

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