There are tentative signs that children may not spread the novel coronavirus as much as adults, two top epidemiologists said on Tuesday, though they cautioned that the bad news was that human immunity may not last that long.
As Europe and the United States start to return to work after lockdowns imposed to slow the spread of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new virus, world leaders are trying to work out when it is safe for children and students to get back to their studies.
Dr Rosalind Eggo, an infectious disease modeller at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said she had seen some indications from research that children may not spread the novel coronavirus as much as adults.
“There are hints that children are less infectious but it is not certain,” Eggo, who sits on a panel that advises the British government about transmission of COVID-19 among children and within schools, told the science committee of the House of Lords, the second chamber of Britain’s parliament.
Eggo said that for children who show no sign of being infected it was very difficult to tell how contagious they were, though she said there was a little bit of evidence starting to appear that there may be a lower possibility of infection from them.
“We need more studies to really pin this down as it is so important,” Eggo said.
She said that her research had shown that there was a much lower level of symptomatic infection in those under 20 years-old – perhaps as little as 20% of infections showing clinical symptoms.
“We think that children are less likely to get it so far but it is not certain,” she said. “We are very certain that children are less likely to have severe outcomes.”