Children may have lower susceptibility to Covid-19 than adults, UK scientists say


File photo: A young girl peeps around the classroom door at the photographer as children of key workers take part in school activities at Oldfield Brow Primary School in Altrincham, England. (Photo: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
File photo: A young girl peeps around the classroom door at the photographer as children of key workers take part in school activities at Oldfield Brow Primary School in Altrincham, England. (Photo: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

CHILDREN have milder Covid-19 symptoms than adults and the balance of evidence suggests they may also have lower susceptibility and infectivity than adults, scientists advising the British government have said.

As Europe and the US start to return to work after lockdowns imposed to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, world leaders are trying to work out when it is safe for children and students to get back to their studies.

Cautioning that there is a significant lack of high-quality evidence on children, the scientists concluded in a paper submitted to the British government that: “There was some evidence that children had milder symptoms than adults but that evidence on susceptibility and transmission was as yet unclear.”

In another paper submitted to the government, scientists said: “Evidence remains inconclusive on both the susceptibility and infectivity of children, but the balance of evidence suggests that both may be lower than in adults.”

In a third, April 29, document, Professor Russell Viner of University College London and Dr Rosalind Eggo of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine said UK clinical data confirmed that children have notably less symptomatic disease and of lower severity than adults.

“Evidence remains inconclusive on both susceptibility and transmissibility of children, but balance of evidence suggesting both may be lower,” Viner and Eggo said.

“Serological studies are starting to be available on child infection history with some suggesting low rates of infection,” they said. “These must be interpreted with caution.”

“There is limited evidence about transmission from children, with some leaning towards lower transmission from children.”

Meanwhile, a review of global evidence by University College London and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine said children were “56 per cent less likely than an adult to catch the virus when exposed to an infected person”.

The study came at a time when the issue of reopening schools had raised confusion and concerns.

“Teachers worry about their children and I think it is incredibly reassuring the children they teach are half as susceptible to this virus,” said Prof Russell Viner, from University College London and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health.

School reopening plans

Britain will set out more details of its plans for the reopening of schools to some pupils “as soon as we can”, a spokesman for Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Friday, adding ministers trusted head teachers to take their own decisions.

Some teachers and unions have criticised the government for asking them to reopen to some pupils from June 1, saying the move is too early and others that they have little time to prepare buildings for a return under social distancing measures.

“We continue to work closely with teachers, schools and the unions to address their concerns,” the spokesman told reporters. “The roadmap sets out plans to get more children into schools in the safest possible way from June 1 at the earliest and we will set out more details on our plans as soon as we can.

A senior health official said it should be for the schools to decide when to reopen following nationwide closures to stem the spread of the coronavirus, and some had the confidence to do so.

“Ultimately, it will be for the schools to decide whether they are ready for this and whether parents have confidence that they will send the children back,” Yvonne Doyle, medical director and director for health protection at Public Health England, told Parliament’s science committee.

“I am confident that some schools may already feel they are ready to open, others may not.”