Coronavirus: School children don't appear to spread disease, study finds

Researchers studied 510 students from six primary schools

Matt Mathers
Wednesday 24 June 2020 13:09 BST
Coronavirus in numbers

School children don’t appear to pass Covid-19 onto their teachers and classmates, a study has found.

A study of 1,340 students, teachers and staff in the town of Crepy-en-Valois, about 44 miles northeast of Paris, found that three probable coronavirus cases in children did not lead to further transmission.

Five hundred-and-ten students from six primary schools were included in the study.

There were three suspected cases of Covid-19 in three different schools before they closed for the February vacation and then for the lockdown in Crépy-en-Valois.

These cases did not give rise to secondary cases among other school students or teaching staff, the research states.

Researchers say the study also suggests that children are largely asymptomatic and appear less contagious than adults. It also showed that adults appeared to be infecting children rather than the other way around.

The team, led by epidemiologist Arnaud Fontanet, said that more studies are needed to analyse the virus transmission risk from children due to the small number of cases they looked at.

A separate French study published earlier this month also suggested that children are both less likely to catch the novel disease and transmit it to adults.

The study, carried out by 27 paediatricians from the SFP (French paediatric society) between 14 April and 12 May, involved 605 participants under the age of 15 in the Ile-de-France region – of the country’s hardest-hit areas.

Researchers found that around 53 per cent of children analysed were asymptomatic, while 47 per cent showed only mild symptoms.

“Some 1.8 percent tested positive with a PCR [nasal swab] when tested during lockdown,” Professor Robert Cohen, coordinator of the research, told the Le Parisien newspaper following publication of the study.

“But looking more closely at this figures, we were genuinely surprised to see that only 0.6 percent were contagious.

“What’s more, in nine out of 10 cases, infected adults were the ones contaminating the children and not vice versa.”

The evidence surrounding Covid-19 in children remains contested, however. A German study published in April suggested children may be just as infectious as adults.

In the UK, health officials have said the virus poses a “minuscule” risk to children’s health.

Dr Gavin Morgan, an expert in educational psychology at University College London, said the impact of spending a prolonged period out of education was “100 per cent” worse than Covid-19.

“We know how important play is for children’s development,” he told the Sunday Telegraph earlier this month. “If they can’t play with their friends, their mental health is going to suffer.

“Children may well have developed secure attachment with their teachers and they have been denied access to these figures.”

On Tuesday, two schools in Yorkshire shut their doors for the week following a confirmed coronavirus case.

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