‘Schools should re-open as children are not super-spreaders’

Two experts in infectious diseases in children have called on the Government to allow children to go back to school.

Dr Alasdair Munro and Professor Saul Faust say it is time for classes to re-open as evidence from around the world shows that children have less chance of catching Covid-19 and are not “super-spreaders” of the virus.

In an article published by BMJ Journals online, the pair point out that not only are children less likely than adults to catch Covid-19, they are less likely to spread it.

They quote the results of widespread testing in Iceland and South Korea which showed that children were “significantly underrepresented”.

And testing of 86% of the population of the town of Vo, Italy, showed no children under 10 were found to be positive compared with 2.6% of the general population and despite a number of children living with adults who had Covid-19.

Their article points out that other studies have shown that children have not been responsible for spreading the virus.

They quote a cluster in the French Alps which included a child with Covid-19 “who failed to transmit it to any other person, despite exposure to more than 100 children in different schools and a ski resort”.

And in New South Wales, Australia, none of 735 students and 128 staff contracted Covid-19 from nine child and nine adult initial school cases despite close contact.

The pair say that analysis of school closures has shown it to be “ineffective” in reducing the spread of the virus and they add: “Governments worldwide should allow all children back to school regardless of comorbidities.

“The media highlight of a possible rare new Kawasaki-like vasculitis that may or may not be due to Sars-CoV2 does not change the fact that severe Covid-19 is as rare as many other serious infection syndromes in children that do not cause schools to be closed.”

Prof Faust, a professor of paediatric immunology and immunology in Southampton, said: “The information and evidence about Covid-19 transmission is telling us that the risk to children and the public of reopening the schools is low – but this needs to be done carefully with full surveillance to make sure the transmission stays low.

“If schools re-open, schools and public health agencies should be considering strict checks on temperatures and symptoms for everyone at the start and end of each day, and in some schools and areas detailed ‘track and trace’ contact tracing should be carried out.”

Dr Munro, a specialist in paediatric infectious diseases at Southampton Children’s Hospital and a clinical research fellow at the NIHR Clinical Research Facility at University Hospital Southampton (UHS) said: “Even since submission of this article, four further pieces of research have been published which have confirmed children acquire the infection less easily than adults, including the major international journals Science and in Clinical Infectious Diseases.”