KUALA LUMPUR: More than 400,000 cases of COVID-19 infection involving individuals under the age of 18 were recorded this year, up from about 12,000 cases last year, said Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin.

He said of the total number of cases reported this year, which included 67 deaths, involved 252,569 school children and 42,831 pre-school students.

"It is our joint responsibility to ensure children are protected from COVID-19 by ensuring a safe environment for them, including taking appropriate preventive and protective measures," he said in his keynote address in conjunction with a webinar on Living With COVID-19 : Children and Teenagers today.

Khairy said for the protection of those aged 12 to 17, the government had implemented a vaccination programme for the group.

Based on the Health Ministry's data on COVIDNOW, 43 percent or 1,352,870 individuals, aged between 12 and 17, teenagers have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine as of yesterday.

Khairy said although the vaccination provided protection from the adverse effects of COVID-19, having the vaccination alone was not enough, instead the people needed to continue to observe the new normal practices to avoid the risk of infection.

"Among the things we need to do and make a practice among children are wearing the face masks all the time; washing hands with soap or using hand sanitiser; not attending school if they are symptomatic or close contacts of COVID-19 patients and undergo screening at the school entrance," he said, adding that this would also serve as a preparation for the opening of the school session.

Khairy said parents should provide support and encouragement to children to adhere to standard operating procedures (SOPs) whether they have been vaccinated or not, besides cultivating a healthy lifestyle.

"Health depends on the cooperation of all parties ... in dealing with COVID-19, no one is safe until everyone is safe," he added.