School kids at ‘unbelievably low risk’ of catching and spreading coronavirus, major review finds – The Sun
Researchers claim that opening up schools and nurseries is unlikely to have an impact on Covid-19 death rates among older people.
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The team of scientists at the Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the Karolinska Institute, near Stockholm, in Sweden, said that kids aren't the "main drivers of the pandemic".
They carried out a systematic review of more than 47 separate studies which showed that children are a low risk of catching, spreading and suffering severe symptoms of the bug.
Children are also unlikely to infect their families or teachers, the researchers said.
The new study, published in the journal Acta Paediatrica, said there had not been a single reported case of a child or teacher catching Covid-19 in school in Sweden – where schools have remained open throughout the pandemic.
Children are not the main drivers of the Covid-19 pandemic
Professor Jonas Ludvigsson, who led the review, concluded that opening schools are unlikely to have an impact on mortality rates for older people.
He said: "This review suggests that children are not the main drivers of the Covid-19 pandemic.
"Children mainly have social contacts with peers and parents, rather than with older people who face a risk of severe disease.
"It is highly likely that children can transmit the disease, but studies show that children rarely initiate the spread of the infection in a household."
It comes after officials instructed schools to get ready for reception, year one and six to return from the start of June – if it's safe to still do so.
But thousands of schools could defy the plans as at least 23 councils have expressed concern about the Government plans.
Speaking to the Daily Mail, Prof Ludvigsson said: "The UK has taken a hard hit from Covid-19. But the main issue is to protect the people who may die – and they are the old and middle-aged people with risk factors such as severe obesity and diabetes.
"In Sweden, a million children go to school each day and there have been no outbreaks in children or teachers.
"This tells us there is real-world evidence that children are not very contagious."
In Sweden, a million children go to school each day and there have been no outbreaks in children or teachers
A previous review by Prof Ludvigsson on Covid-19 in children found that they tend to have milder or no respiratory symptoms.
He said that this probably decreases the risk of viral transmission.
Among the studies included in the review was one from China which looked at 66 family clusters of the disease.
It concluded that there wasn't one example of a child being the first to be infected – known as the "index case".
Children can still catch coronavirus but they appear to either experience very mild symptoms or none at all.
There are some rare cases of kids suffering from severe Covid-19 and there have been a number of deaths worldwide – but most have had underlying health conditions, experts say.
But the suggestion is that the risk to children remains extremely low.
Cambridge University statistician Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter told BBC Radio 4: "Out of seven million five to 14-year-olds in England and Wales, so far the number of death certificates that have been revealed has been one death with Covid marked on it.
"There will be more, there will be some coroners' reports coming in. But it's still an unbelievably low risk."
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He added that teachers do not appear to be at higher risk than many other professions.
Professor Maria Van Kerkhove, from the World Health Organisation, said: "Children are susceptible and can transmit as well, but seem to be infected by their parents from adults in their household.
"As authorities consider reopening schools, they must look at transmission intensity, can they be opened with safe physical distancing."
Backed by docs
It comes as a doctors' union said it no longer opposes the reopening of schools on June 1.
The British Medical Association said evidence shows the risk to kids is "extremely small," but schools should only reopen if it is “safe to do so".
Last week, doctors said it was too risky for kids to return to schools, despite the country's biggest primary school chains backing the Government's plans.
In an apparent softening of its stance, the British Medical Association (BMA) has admitted there was “growing evidence that the risk to individual children from Covid-19 is extremely small."
However, it warned there was still no consensus around how easily kids could spread the disease to vulnerable adults.
Writing for The Telegraph, Dr Peter English, the chairman of the BMA’s Public Health Medicine Committee, said: “The BMA wants schools to reopen as soon as it is safe to do so and the evidence allows – this could be before June 1 or after.
"A zero-risk approach is not possible. This is about ‘safe’ being an acceptable level of risk.”
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