Paediatricians ‘not seeing significant pressure from Covid in children’s wards’

PA

Paediatricians have said they are not seeing significant pressure from coronavirus on children’s wards as they sought to reassure concerned parents, following reports of increased admissions among younger people.

Professor Russell Viner, president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH), said the “overwhelming majority” of children and young people have no symptoms or very mild illness only.

He added that while the more transmissible variant of the virus, linked to the faster spread in the south of England, appears to affect all ages, paediatricians are not seeing any greater severity in children.

“Children’s wards are usually busy in winter.

“As of now we are not seeing significant pressure from Covid-19 in paediatrics across the UK,” Prof Viner said in a statement on Saturday.

“As cases in the community rise there will be a small increase in the number of children we see with Covid-19, but the overwhelming majority of children and young people have no symptoms or very mild illness only.

“The new variant appears to affect all ages and, as yet, we are not seeing any greater severity amongst children and young people.”

His comments were supported by a number of paediatricians working in children’s wards.

Dr Ronny Cheung, consultant paediatrician at the Evelina Children’s Hospital in London, said: “I’ve been the on-call consultant in a London children’s hospital this week.

“Covid is rife in hospitals, but not among children – and that is corroborated by my colleagues across London.”

Dr Liz Whittaker, consultant paediatrician at St Mary’s Hospital London, said she continues to “worry for my elders, not my kids”.

“There are lots of children with Covid positive tests, but thankfully only small numbers with severe disease or Pims (the rare inflammatory disease associated with Covid), and these are within expected levels – given the London rates,” she said.

Dr Damian Roland, consultant paediatrician at University Hospitals of Leicester, added: “I think it’s important all in child health make absolutely clear we are not seeing a nationwide wave of Covid-19 induced illness in children.”

Meanwhile, Linda Bauld, a professor in public health at the University of Edinburgh, said that transmission among primary school pupils was “still very limited”.

“Transmission amongst primary school pupils is still very limited, in terms of the data we have, they are not a main vector for the disease or passing it on to their peers or to their families,” she told the PA news agency.

“The older a child gets and and the more close they are physically to an adult, the more able they are to pass the virus on.

“It is very clear that secondary school pupils, particularly older teenagers, can pass it on in the same way as adults.

“And the science on that has not changed.”

She added: “The other thing that has not changed is that in the vast majority of cases, Covid is not causing harm to children.”

On discussions over whether children were passing on the new variant more easily, Prof Bauld said it was a “population data issue”, as schools remained open during the November lockdown.

“But it does not mean that teenagers are more able to pass it on than adults, because we don’t have any evidence to say that is the case,” she added.

Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) member Dr Mike Tildesley told the BBC that the evidence was “that we are not getting a significant increase in cases in a primary school setting despite this new variant”.

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