Covid-19 and children: What do scientists say?

Ten months since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, no one has been spared of its impacts, not even children, but science shows that the pandemic has less severe health effects on children.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) data, less than 10 percent of reported cases and less than 0.2 percent of deaths are in people under the age of 20.

 

Speaking to the media last week, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus outlined that understanding its effects on children has been a priority.

 

“We know that children and adolescents can be infected and can infect others,” he said. “We know that this virus can kill children, but that children tend to have a milder infection and there are very few severe cases and deaths from Covid-19 among children and adolescents.”

 

While the potential long-term health effects in those who have been infected remain unknown, Tedros signaled a need for more research into factors that increase the risk of severe disease among children and adolescents.

Luckly, the majority of children that catch the virus also tend to even have asymptomatic infection, according to Covid-19 Technical Lead and Infectious Disease Epidemiologist at WHO, Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove.

New facts on transmission

“We’re noticing that through some of the studies, they can be infected from contact with parents, they can transmit it to others,” Kerkhove said while appearing on Science In 5, WHO’s science talk show, on Wednesday, September 16.

However, transmission among children seems to occur less often than it does among adults, she added.

Kerkhove said that the youngest children appear to transmit the virus less to each other, compared to teenage children who appear to transmit at the same rate as adults do.

How can schools reopen?

Although children have largely been spared many of the most severe health effects of the virus, they have suffered in other ways, said the WHO Director-General.

In many countries, schools provide critical services such as nutrition and immunization which have been disrupted, while millions of children have missed out on months of schooling.

WHO’s Tedros said that the period of closure should be used for putting in place measures to prevent and respond to transmission when schools reopen.

“Schools are part of a community. In fact, schools connect communities,” he said. “The measures taken in a community to reduce the risk of Covid-19 transmission will reduce the risk in schools as well.”

A global education emergency

Currently, half the global student population is still unable to return to schools. According to a new UNICEF report, at least a third of the world’s schoolchildren – 463 million children globally – are unable to access remote learning since the outbreak shuttered their schools.

The report estimates that 67 million schoolchildren in East and Southern Africa cannot access remote learning, due to lack of remote learning programmes and technological assets.

editor@newtimesrwanda.com

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