Covid-19 cases among US children rose 40% in late July: Report

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UNITED STATES: The number of new Covid-19 cases among children in the US rose 40 per cent in the last two weeks of July, according to a report released just weeks before tens of millions of American students are scheduled to begin the new school year.

Health experts are keeping an eye on infections among children as officials struggle with the thorny question of whether to reopen schools for in-person classes, adopt a virtual learning model or a hybrid of the two.

President Donald Trump, who is seeking a second term in the White House in a Nov 3 election, has pushed states to allow students to physically return to classrooms, but health officials have expressed caution about doing so in areas where cases have been rising sharply.

The report by the American Academy of Paediatrics and the Children's Hospital Association found more than 338,000 children have tested positive since the onset of the US epidemic, with 97,078 new cases reported in the July 16-30 period.

Most of the infections in this group occurred in states in the US South and West, according to the report, which was based on data from 49 states, New York City, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and Guam.

It did not give a reason for the recent spike. Testing for the coronavirus overall has risen in the US and concerns about children as possible spreaders have been sparked by new studies showing they can catch it.

The American Academy of Paediatrics noted the data showed that severe illness from Covid-19 appears to be rare among children. The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has said children are less likely to have severe symptoms. It recently updated its guidance to recommend that schools reopen to some degree unless their communities were experiencing an uncontrolled or high rate of transmission.

In a separate development, Mr Trump's administration is considering a measure to block citizens and permanent residents from returning home if they are suspected of being infected, a senior official confirmed to Reuters.

The official said a draft regulation, which has not been finalised, would give the government authorisation to block individuals who could "reasonably" be believed to have contracted Covid-19 or other diseases. - REUTERS