A north-south divide and a worse over-75 death rate than first estimated

Commenting on the findings, Paul Hunter, Professor of Medicine at the University of East Anglia, said: “The thing that has surprised me is the high rate in children, 18 per cent.

“I am not sure I totally believe this but, if true, this is really important and suggests that children are an important vector.”

Earlier this week, Osama Rahman, chief scientific adviser at the Department for Education (DfE), admitted there was only a ‘low degree of confidence’ in evidence suggesting that children transmit Covid-19 any less than adults.

Dr Rahman told MPs that it was possible that ‘hundreds of potential vectors’ for the virus could be brought together amid a wider reopening of schools.

The Local Government Association (LGA) is calling for some schools to be given greater flexibility locally over reopening because they argue some communities are at higher risk.

The Government’s Covid-19 recovery strategy said its ambition was for all primary school children to return to school before the summer holidays for a month “if feasible”.

However, experts said it was important to balance the risks and benefits of children going back to the classroom.

Prof Russell Viner, President of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said: “The total numbers of children who get this syndrome are very small.

“Around 5,000 children die tragically each year. Some of these are premature babies. But 160-170 die in car crashes.

“Those deaths are tragic but also rare. How do we manage those? We take steps to prevent these deaths. We buy child seats, we use seat belts, we sometimes buy better cars. But we don’t stop driving.

“We all know that there are many harms for children in lockdown as well. What parents do need, however, is knowledge and understanding so they know what to look out for.”

While previous analysis by Imperial College suggested the overall death rate for those testing positive for coronavirus was 5.1 per cent for people in their 70s and 9.3 per cent for those over 80, the new analysis puts the death rate for the over-75s at 16 per cent.

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