Britain’s chief medical officer and the country’s most senior paediatrician finally admit what correspondent.world revealed over two months ago…

23 August 2020 By Paul Martin

At last. Britain’s top medical officer Chris Whitty has admitted what correspondent.world reported on 11 June and onwards.

He stated that the risk of young children dying from Covid-19 is tiny, and the risk of children passing it on to adults is minimal.  [He adds, cautiously, that the evidence for the latter is “weaker”.]

Image result for photo chris whitty
Professor Whitty.

Professor Whitty pointed out that any dangers to children by reopening schools, combined with the minimal risk that the children will pass any disease on to adults, are far outweighed by the benefits to the children, and to society, of having fully-functional schools.

This same point was made more than two months ago by two top virologists or epidemiologists at Britain’s top children’s hospital.  https://correspondent.world/in-considering-sending-children-back-to-school-parents-need-to-remember-that-their-decisions-must-be-about-balancing-all-the-different-risks-their-children-face-only-one-of-them-is-covid-19-which/2/  Since then, over 100 epidemiologists, psychologists and virologists signed an open letter to similar effect.

So the real question is: why has it taken until Saturday August 22 for the British health chief to go public with what was already known at least two months and 11 days ago [via our article]? And if he knew this over two months ago, why did he not intervene or advise the government to let him go public with this vital set of facts or conclusions?

In his BBC interview, Professor Whitty said: “There is overwhelmingly clearer evidence that the chances of children dying from Covid are incredibly small.” He said British and international evidence also showed that of this ‘incredibly small’ number, most had pre-existing health conditions.

He also looked at the spread of Covid from those children who do get infected by it. “There is much less transmission from children to adults than from adults to children,” he said.

[In a briefing to a group of religious leaders two weeks ago, Whitty had said there was no evidence worldwide that any child had infected an adult. Access to any audio, video or text of his remarks, in a question-and-answer session following a speech, was denied to correspondent.world at the time.]

In his remarks to the BBC on 22nd August, Professor Whitty said the “extra risk” of opening schools to the spread of Covid in society is mainly “indirect” and it was vital for children’s health and wellbeing that schools be fully reopened. He made similar remarks in a media briefing.

In this he has been backed up by Professor Russell  Viner, professor of Adolescent Paediatrics at University College London, president of The Royal College of Paediatrics, and adviser to the UK government’s advisory group for emergencies.

Russell Viner, RCPCH President
Professor Viner

He feels a lot of the resistance to a full return to school has come to misinformation being absorbed by parents.

“I think that fear has played a major role in this.  I think we have to go back to the science and be reassured,” said the country’s top paediatrician.

He said evidence is rapidly growing that children, especially pre-teenagers, transmit the disease very seldom if ever to adults.

“There is very little evidence that children and young people transmit.

What information we have is very reassuring. I’ve had two emails today about studies coming out in the next couple of weeks. They are generally reassuring, [showing] that children play a very limited role – and schools too – in the transmission of the disease.”

The country’s top paediatrician told BBC Newsnight he does not see any need for children at schools to wear masks, saying especially younger children will touch their masks then their faces and so actually be more likely to absorb the virus causing Covid-19.

He added: “For teenagers, we don’t have the evidence that this is useful.”

Professor Viner suggested that even in high schools, “the evidence that they transmit … is not very high. If we go back to the evidence, young people can transmit but we are not seeing large levels of transmission in schools.”

He admitted though that as children get older their pattern of infection and transmission will become more like adults, but maintained that they are much more likely to catch the virus from contacts made outside school, and to pass it on outside school.

Parents and teachers unions had expressed worry about what to do if some Covid-19 was identified within the school environment.

But Professor Viner said if teachers were ill with Covid-19, or a few pupils had been tested positive for Covid-19, decisions had to be taken on a local level through interaction with local Public Health England officials.

He saw no reason to restrict education at schools other than those actually shown to have pupils or teachers who tested positive for the corona-virus..

The local health officials were well versed in dealing with health hazards at schools in their area from previous contagions, Professor Viner said.

He did not say who he felt was to blame for the “fear” engendered in parents and teachers.

[Professor Viner was Clinical Director in a busy NHS teaching hospital and clinical director for children and young people for the NHS across London, responsible for leading healthcare strategy for London’s two million children and young people.]

[Professor Whitty is the Chief Medical Officer for England, Chief Medical Adviser to the UK Government, and served as the Chief Scientific Adviser at the Department of Health and Social Care and Head of the National Institute for Health Research.]

……………….

Here is an article in the national press that (quite a long way down and not very clearly makes the same points as correspondent.world has made for months:

So can children pass coronavirus onto adults?

On 23 August, Professor Chris Witty cited evidence of children “much less commonly” needing hospital treatment or becoming severely ill with coronavirus than adults.

According to the Office for National Statistics data on ages there were 10 recorded deaths as “due to Covid-19” among those age 19 or under in England and Wales between March and June 2020.

It said of the 30 outbreaks detected in that time, most had likely been caused by staff members infecting other staff members, with only two instances thought to involve students infecting other students.

In April, a report published on the Don’t Forget the Bubbles blog, in partnership with the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, outlined findings by the World Health Organisation (WHO) which “could not recall episodes during contact tracing where transmission occurred from a child to an adult”.

But it did warn there was no certainty. ”The role of children in transmission is unclear, but it seems likely they do not play a significant role,” it stated.

Speaking to The Independent, Dr Alasdair Munro, who compiled the research said that studies have shown that children “have a lower attack rate than adults”, that children “are less likely to acquire it from a household contact than adults are” and that children “are less often the people bringing it into the household than adults”.

UCL study, published in May, found children “appear half as likely to catch Covid-19 as adults” but warned that “evidence remains weak on how likely they are to transmit the virus”. It was the largest study of its kind, including a systematic review of more than 6,000 international studies into Covid-19 spread.

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“Susceptibility is a key part of the chain of infection, and this supports the view that children are likely to play a smaller role in transmitting the virus and proliferating the pandemic, although considerable uncertainty remains,” it said.

A study published in The Lancet in June, concluded: “Covid-19 is generally a mild disease in children, including infants. However a small proportion develop severe disease requiring ICU admission and prolonged ventilation, although fatal outcome is overall rare.”

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