THE risk of children catching coronavirus is “much lower” than adults, according to documents released this afternoon by the Government’s SAGE group of experts.
Downing Street today published the findings in a move to reassure worried parents and teachers about its plan to re-open schools on June 1.
But the published documents warned that children could be less likely to become immune to the deadly virus once they have had it.
The documents said: “Clinical data in the UK confirm previous reports that children have notably less symptomatic disease and of lower severity than adults.
“PHE data shows that less than 5 per cent of kids under 16-years-old who have been tested for COVID-19 are positive in England – much lower than adults.”
Professor Russell Viner, from the UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health, said there is an “increasing amount” of data available, adding this is the first major review to focus on risk of kids catching and spreading the bug.
He said: “Our findings show children and young people appear 56 per cent less likely to contract Covid-19 from infected others.
“Susceptibility is a key part of the chain of infection, and this supports the view that children are likely to play a smaller role in transmitting the virus and proliferating the pandemic, although considerable uncertainty remains.”
The documents – which also warned the effects of lockdown would affect children’s education and work prospects for the rest of their lives – were released as militant teaching unions and councils prepared to defy the government and refuse to go back.
The SAGE documents added that youngsters who did catch the virus had “milder symptoms” than adults and would develop symptoms such as a cough and a fever “less often.”
However, that does mean that kids might be “less likely” to develop protective immunity, the study also warned.
The documents also revealed the biggest issue with sending kids back to classes would be assuaging parents’ fears over their children getting sick.
They said parents were more worried about younger children because of “perceived vulnerability.”
The release of the documents come as hardline teachers union bosses encourage their members not to engage with the reopening of schools.
The advice will pile pressure on the army of councils rebelling against the date to drop their opposition and let kids back to class.
Only a handful of councils plan to reopen schools on June 1, leaving parents across the country in the dark over their children’s education.
The final decision on whether or not to open up classrooms will fall to headteachers.
According to a survey of 151 local authorities in England by The Times, only a small minority were willing to abide by Government advice.
Almost two thirds of local authorities responded but only 17 of them said they would be planning a return for June 1.
Another 47 said they were leaving it up to individual schools and headteachers and they would not lay out directions.
Nine councils said they hadn’t yet decided or did not provide a clear response.
The documents claim it is no more dangerous for teachers than any other key worker.
A whopping 10.6 million people – a third of all workers – are ‘key workers’ across the UK, according to the Office for National Statistics.
This includes NHS and social care staff, but also an army of other workers including bus and train drivers, supermarket staff, police and some council staff.
Hardline unions had drawn up a list of 169 health and safety demands before teachers go back to class.
One of the sticking points is having a robust contact tracing system in place – a move Mr Johnson said would be up and running by June 1.
It comes as parents were being told to make their minds up by today if they intend to send their primary school-aged children back to school after half term.
The state schools that are opening have sent letters to parents asking whether they intend to keep their children at home or not, and say they need to know today what their decision is.
This morning an independent group of scientific experts warned schools can’t open safely by June 1.
Former Chief Scientific Adviser and chair of ‘the Independent SAGE’ group, Sir David King has urged the Government to push back the date to reopen the nation’s schools.
The Independent Sage group has slammed the Government for failing to bring in contact tracing faster – saying it could have curbed new infections in just three weeks.