A child was admitted into intensive care after contracting Covid-19 in recent weeks, it has been reported.
The Irish News reports of a dramatic increase in the number of children suspected to have the virus attending a specialist centre for assessment.
Concerns have been raised about a rise in patients aged under five being referred by their GP to the Beech Hall facility in Belfast.
Queen’s University virologist Dr Connor Bamford, responding to the report, told the BBC more caution had to be taken around protecting children from Covid-19, including in school settings.
Beech Hall manager Dr Ursula Brennan has expressed concern that parents are not availing of Covid-19 testing due to the invasive nature for taking a swab sample.
In a letter dated July 1, Dr Brennan called for “imminent changes” to how GP-led Covid centres are run, including restricted operational hours, end of home visits and strict criteria for accepting patients.
It is hoped the changes will allow stretched GP services to return to normal.
“Beech Hall Primary Care Covid Centre is currently experiencing very high volumes of referrals in stark contrast to summer 2020,” she said in the letter seen by The Irish News.
“The vast majority of referrals are aged under five.
“Additionally, it is noted that patients are not consistently availing of Covid-19 PCR testing or household isolation.”
Dr Brennan said centre assessments will now only be carried out between 9am and 6pm Monday to Sunday, rather than 8am to 10pm.
West Belfast GP Dr Michael McKenna, who has covered shifts at Beech Hall for more than a year, told the paper that one child with Covid ended up in intensive care “in the past few weeks”.
“But the bottom line is that we don’t have enough GPs to spread across the different services,” he added.
“It was much quieter but now we’re back to business as usual and the numbers are higher than they were prior to Covid.”
Dr Bamford said there was are concerns around the virus spreading amongst young children but the focus remains on the most vulnerable in society.
“Of course, we have known since the beginning of this whole epidemic that young children and older children can get infected and they can get sick,” he told BBC Radio Ulster’s Good Morning Ulster.
“Unfortunately they can die but at a much lower rate.
“It’s still does happen and what we’re going to see is this become more and more important as we roll out the vaccines to over 18s, and the only population that’s left within the UK that the virus might spread easily would be those under 18.
“We do have to remember that it is much less likely for children to get sick.
“I would encourage to take more caution around this and we might even have to think about what do we do in school settings, how do we protect children as best as possible and of course, even looking at vaccinating those older kids in the first instance - those aged over 12 to 18.”