Low infection rate shows limited role of children during coronavirus pandemic

When considered in light of positive cases among all age groups, children accounted for 1.1 per cent of all cases of Covid-19.

Just over half (53 per cent) were boys.

The highest number of positive cases in children were among children under the age of three months – but researchers said this was just a reflection of the higher number of tests done among children in this age bracket.

They said that young infants are more likely to have more tests done when they are unwell and parents are more likely to take them to a doctor if they are younger.

During the study period there were eight deaths of children confirmed to have Covid-19.

In four cases “another cause (of death) was identified and Sars-CoV-2 was reported to be incidental or an indirect contributor to death”, the authors wrote.

Among four children aged 10 to 15 who died, three had “multiple” other health conditions, they wrote.

The authors added: “There has been no increase in excess deaths in children aged 0-15 years until May 3.

“The experience in England adds to the growing body of evidence on the limited role of children in the Covid-19 pandemic, with just over one per cent of confirmed cases occurring in children.

“Children accounted for a very small proportion of confirmed cases despite the large numbers of children tested.

“Sars-CoV-2 positivity was low even in children with acute respiratory infection.

“Our findings provide further evidence against the role of children in infection and transmission of Sars-CoV-2.”

Previous research has implied that lower infection rates among children may be due to “lower expression of the cell surface enzyme ACE2 in the nasal epithelium of children compared with adults”.

ACE2 is a protein on the surface of cells to which Sars-CoV-2 binds, and can be found on the cells on the inner lining of the nose. Previous research has implied that the lower risk in children may be down to the fact they have lower expression of this enzyme in the inner lining of their nose.

The authors of the current paper say that a “key” unanswered question remains whether children without symptoms might be contributing to community transmission of the virus.

But they point to other research that shows low infection rates among children and a separate study which found that among household infections children were “never the first to be infected or to be the source of infection in the household”.

The authors, which include experts from PHE, the University of Oxford, the Evelina children’s hospital, King’s College London and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, concluded: “England is currently nearing the end of the first peak of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Consistent with other countries, children account for a very small proportion of confirmed cases and have very low case-fatality rates. Despite the large number of children tested, only 4 per cent were positive for Sars-CoV-2.”

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