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Sunday June 23rd, 2024

Children less sick from Coronavirus, as 140,000 cases confirmed

Medical workers wearing protective gear carry a patient infected with the COVID-19 coronavirus at a hospital in Chuncheon on February 22, 2020. South Korea reported 142 more coronavirus cases on February 22, the sharpest spike in infections yet, with more than half of the new cases linked to a hospital in a southern city. The national toll of 346 is now the second-highest outside of China. YONHAP / AFP

AFP – For reasons unknown, children rarely have severe symptoms when infected by COVID-19 and may even be a bit less likely to get the disease in the first place, experts told AFP.

But that doesn’t mean infants, toddlers and teens are not carriers for the new coronavirus, which jumped from animals to humans in central China at the end of last year.

As of Friday, there were over 140,000 confirmed cases in 124 countries, with more than 5,000 deaths.

Experts estimate that the true number of infections — many with mild or no symptoms — is far higher.

“We know children get infected with the virus, but they don’t appear to get very sick or die,” said Justin Lessler, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

“What we don’t know is how much these asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic kids transmit,” he told AFP. “This is key to understanding their role in the epidemic.”

In a study from mid-February of 44,000 confirmed cases in and around the city of Wuhan, where the pandemic began, the 10-to-19 age bracket made up one percent of infections and a single death.

Patients under 10 comprised less than one percent, with no deaths reported.

“We are still trying to wrap our heads around the deficit of cases among those under 20,” said Cecile Viboud, an epidemiologist at the US National Institute of Health’s Fogarty International Centre.

There are several theories as to why kids, especially young ones, are less prone to serious symptoms.

“Children see so many illnesses in the first years of life that their immune systems are tuned up and respond nicely to novel infection,” commented Sharon Nachman, head of paediatric infectious disease at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital in New York state.

Whatever the reason, how easily children transmit the disease despite their relative imperviousness to illness “is directly relevant to the idea of closing schools,” according to Viboud.

– ‘Flattening the curve’ –

On Thursday French President Emmanuel Macron said all schools in France — from kindergarten to college — would shut their doors as of Monday, until further notice.

So far, 29 countries — including Ireland, China, Italy, Poland and Japan — have suspended classes nationwide, affecting nearly 400 million kids, according to UNESCO. Another 20 nations having taken partial measures.

Some argue that locking children out of the classroom is not worth the social disruption caused, and that keeping kids at home may further expose older people to the disease.

“It might make the epidemic or the ability to manage the consequences worse,” suggested Keith Neal, an emeritus professor of epidemiology and infectious diseases at the University of Nottingham.

It could, for example, result in a reduction in the number of healthcare workers to care for the sick, and “an increase in grandparents delivering childcare — an age group at much greater risk,” he told AFP.

Thomas House, a statistician at the University of Manchester, said there are pros and cons.

“It helps to contain the spread of infection, but it creates a wider problem in society, like missing out on an education,” he said.

But most experts come down in favour of shuttering schools in order to slow the disease’s progress and distribute the number of critical cases over a longer time period in order to avoid overwhelming critical care units in hospitals, as happened in Wuhan and Italy.

Doctors in both places described war-like triage in which they incubated a patient on the last available respirator knowing that one or more others in equal need was likely to die.

For Nachman, pulling children out of school is “a very reasonable measure.”

“We assume that all children will get infection,” she said in an interview. “But if they pass it to their parents and household contacts, it will be over a longer period of time.”

“Instead of getting a hundred people sick tomorrow, we’ll get ten sick for the next ten days, which means less people coming into the hospital all at once.”

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India supports Sri Lanka Coast Guard to boost maritime security

ECONOMYNEXT – India has given 1.2 million US dollars’ worth spare parts to Sri Lanka’s Coast Guard to be used in a vessel also gifted to the Indian Ocean Island on an earlier occasion, the Indian High Commission in Colombo said.

“Handing over of the large consignment of spares symbolizes India’s commitment to support capability building towards addressing the shared challenges of Maritime Security in the region,” the Indian High Commission said

The spare parts were brought to Sri Lanka on the Indian Coast Guard Ship Sachet, an offshore patrol vessel that was on a two-day visit to the island.

The spares were formally handed over to the Sri Lanka Coast Guard Ship Suraksha which was gifted to Sri Lanka in October 2017 by India.

India has gifted spare parts for the ship in June 2021 and April 2022 and also provided assistance in refilling of Halon cylinders in January 2024. (Colombo/June23/2024)

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Sri Lanka Water Board makes profits, tax-payers inject Rs28bn

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s state-run National Water Supply and Drainage Board has made a profit of 5.2 billion rupees in the year to December 2023, after a tariff increase despite not getting money for 25 percent of its water it pumps out.

Total revenues went up to 61.8 billion rupees in 2023 from 35.4 billion rupees, a Finance Ministry report said.

Water revenue surged to 58.5 billion rupees from 33.1 billion rupees, cost of sales also went up to 32.8 billion rupees from 23.14 billion rupees, helping boost gross profits from 12.3 billion rupees to 29.0 billion rupees.

Finance costs surged to 14.9 billion rupees from 3.9 billion rupees,

NSWD reported net profits of 5.2 billion rupees for the year, against a loss of 2.7 billion rupees a year earlier.

The Treasury had given 28 billion rupees from tax payer money to settle loans.

During the Rajapaksa administration, macroeconomists who ran the Finance Ministry made state enterprises borrow money from banks through Treasury guarantees listing them as ‘contingent liabilities’, claiming they were ‘off balance sheet’.

The Road Development Authority, which had no revenues to speak of borrowed large amounts of money from banks which were listed as ‘contingent liabilities’ though they were a responsibility of the state from day one, allowing macroeconomists to understate both the budget deficit and national debt, critics say.

The water tariffs were raised by 81 percent after macroeconomists printed money to supress interest rates for flexible inflation targeting/potential output targeting. The currency collapsed after macroeconomists tried to float the rupee with a surrender rule in place.

Non-revenue water for which no money is collected was 25.2 percent. The agency was supposed to reduce non-revenue water. In some districts religious establishments are responsible for non-revenue water, according to an official who said it on condition of anonymity.

The water board is also unable to collect money from some services like common toilets for underserved communities. (Colombo/June23/2024 – Update II)

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Sri Lanka will expedite Indian projects: President

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka will expedite Indian-backed projects in the island, President Ranil Wickremesinghe told Indian business people after a visit by Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar this week.

“I discussed with Prime Minister Modi the need to accelerate the joint program that we have decided, agreed on. So the major ones are identified, and Foreign Minister Jaishankar came down today [20] to have a discussion. Now this will show the new path we are taking,” president Ranil Wickremesinghe said.

“It won’t be individual projects. We’ve discussed a fair number of them. First is the grid interconnection between Sri Lanka and India, so that sustainable energy can be transmitted to India.

“We have the Sampur solar power project, which is a Government to Government (G2G) project, and a three island project, which is where we hope the ground breaking can take place in July,” he told Indian business people at the 31st All India Partner’s Meet 2024 (AIPM 2024), held at ICT Ratnadipa in Colombo.

The AIPM 2024 which was organised by KPGM Sri Lanka and India provided a platform for both countries to reaffirm their commitment to collaborative projects that promise to redefine bilateral relations and propel socio-economic growth.

“It’s a great pleasure and a privilege to have you in Sri Lanka, in Colombo, holding this meeting. It shows on one hand the close friendship that our two countries have, and on the other hand, the confidence that you have in Sri Lanka.

“Having now survived two difficult years, I must acknowledge that this was possible because India gave us a loan of $3.5 billion. All that will be repaid.”

Cooperation between the two nations needed to be enhanced, particularly in the energy sector, aiming to foster new development for the Northern region, Wickremesinghe said.

“We are looking at developing Palk Straight for wind energy and solar energy, both countries to get together and have a large farm for solar energy, for renewable energy. It also means that we will have a new economy for the northern province, which was worst affected by the war.”

Several Indian-backed projects in Sri Lanka have stalled due to protests from some parties, with some going to courts.

India is helping expand the Kankesanturai port, and is discussing development of the Palali and Colombo airports.

The National Livestock Development Board of Sri Lanka, in collaboration with India’s Amul Dairy Company, is involved in a project to enhance liquid milk production in the country.

The two nations are also considering establishing land connectivity.

Discussions have also taken place regarding expediting the Trincomalee Development Project, which encompasses industrial investment zones and tourist areas.

“Plans are underway to construct a multi-product oil pipeline from Nagapatnam to Trincomalee, pending the final observation report. Trincomalee is poised to become a hub for oil refining, with the development of ports and investment zones, transforming Trincomalee Port into a significant hub on the Bay of Bengal.

“Today, the entire East Coast is being opened up for tourism, with additional land earmarked for hotels in Galle and southern areas. Moreover, there are plans to establish more investment zones across the country, alongside expanding our professional training programs. In these endeavours, we are collaborating closely with India.” (Colombo/Jun22/2024)

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