New Delhi: In the wake of rising coronavirus cases in the country, the Singapore government has announced to shut down all schools. On Sunday, the Singapore government said the new mutations of Covid-19, particularly the B.1.167 variant, were affecting more children and it would shut all schools as it prepares to vaccinate youngsters. Also Read - The Impact of The Covid-19 Pandemic on Teenagers

“Some of these (virus) mutations are much more virulent, and they seem to attack the younger children,” Education Minister Chan Chun Sing was quoted as saying by Reuters. None of the children who have contracted the virus are seriously ill and a few have mild symptoms, he added. The B.1.617 strain appeared to affect children more, said Health Minister Ong Ye Kung, citing the ministry’s director of medical services Kenneth Mak. Also Read - Vistara Announces 48-hour Monsoon SALE For All 3 Classes. Booking Starts Midnight of June 24 | Check Details

As per the reports, the highly transmissible strain of Covid-19 that was first detected in India has become more prominent among Singapore’s growing number of unlinked cases. Of the 17 unlinked COVID cases identified on Sunday, six patients whose ages range from 29 to 57 years old preliminarily tested positive for the B.1.617 COVID variant, according to the Ministry of Health data. Also Read - Mimi Chakraborty Gets Vaccinated at 'Fake' Inoculation Camp in Kolkata, Man Arrested After Complaint

Why did Singapore government decide to shut down all schools?

In Singapore, all primary, secondary and junior colleges will shift to full home-based learning from Wednesday until the end of the school term on May 28 as it’s believed the new COVID variant is affecting more children than past strains.

According to the reports, the  decision came after the Singapore government detected 38 locally transmitted Covid cases, with 17 currently unlinked. The 38 locally transmitted cases caused the highest single-day spike since September, 2020. Among the new infections were four children, related to a cluster in a tuition centre, who tested positive.

Is the B.1.617 variant affecting more children? Here’s what we know

According to the reports, the children who have contracted the virus so far are not seriously ill and a few of them have mild symptoms of coronavirus. The B.1.617 variant has two mutations — E484Q and L452R  and has been termed as a ‘global variant of concern’ by World Health Organisation (WHO). It has already spread to more than 40 countries and several countries have put travel restrictions for passengers coming from India as a result of the rising coronavirus cases in our country.

According to an Indian Express report, one reason why more children may be getting affected is because the B.1.617 variant has a mutation that makes it easier for the virus to latch onto human cells and cause an infection.

Lab studies have shown that the B.1.617 variant can attach with more strength to the ACE-2 receptors, the site where the coronavirus binds to our cells, than the earlier versions of the virus.

A study by The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) and Baylor College of Medicine conducted last year stated that Angiotensin-converting enzyme 2s, ACE-2, are the doors that allow SARS-CoV-2 to enter the body. Since children have less ACE-2 in their lungs, they are less likely to be affected. The paper, which was published in the American Journal of Physiology-Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology, pointed out only about 1.7% of the first 149,082 cases in the US were infants, children and adolescents younger than 18 years.

But the B.1.617 variant could have been a game changer. Many scientists say that this new COVID variant can possibly attach with more strength to the ACE-2 receptors, which means it can then have less attachment sites and still infect people. This could be one of the primary reasons why children are more vulnerable to this new strain of COVID.

However, please note that there are no reports stating that children are getting sicker and cases of Covid infections are turning more serious in children.

Other Details

On Tuesday, in view of this, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal urged the Centre to suspend all air operations with Singapore.

Arguing that it can come as a third wave in India, Kejriwal said the Centre should take immediate measures, including suspension of flights to and from Singapore.

“The new form of Coronavirus in Singapore is said to be very dangerous for children. It could reach Delhi as a third wave. My appeal to the Central government: 1. Cancel all air services with Singapore with immediate effect; 2. Work on vaccine alternatives for children on a priority basis,” Kejriwal tweeted.