Children under the age of 16 accounted for 1% of coronavirus cases in the first peak of Covid-19 in England, a new study has concluded.
The authors said that their study provides further evidence for the “limited role of children in the pandemic”.
The study, led by Public Health England (PHE), comes after Boris Johnson said getting all children back to school full-time in England next month is the “right thing for everybody” amid calls to boost coronavirus testing and tracing to ensure a safe return.
1.1% of cases of coronavirus in England before May 3 were among children
Between January 1 and May 3 2020, 129,704 out of 540,305 people tested positive for the novel coronavirus – also known as Sars-CoV-2 – in England, the authors wrote in the Archives of Disease in Childhood journal.
The first confirmed case involving a child was on February 29.
Cases among children started to increase during the second week of March and peaked on April 11 2020 before declining gradually – a similar trend seen in adults.
Overall 35,200 tests were performed on children under the age of 16 and there were 1,408 cases among children aged 15 – meaning around 4% of all children tested had a positive result.
This compared to 19.1%-34.9% positive results among tested adults.
When considered in light of positive cases among all age groups, children accounted for 1.1% of all cases of Covid-19.
Just over half (53%) were boys.
The highest number of positive cases in children were among children under the age of three months – but researchers said that 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.
And 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, 2020”.
They conclude: “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 1% 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.”