PRIMARY school children are not coronavirus super spreaders, a major study shows.
Researchers from Australia found that kids are unlikely to transmit Covid-19 between each other or to adults.
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And the research is now being considered by UK Government advisers as they consider how to get children back into classrooms safely ahead of June 1.
The study by New South Wales Health’s Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance (NCIRS), released last month, analysed the spread of the virus in NSW schools and childcare centres between March and mid-April.
The researchers looked at 18 coronavirus cases (nine students and nine staff) from 15 schools.
And the report’s preliminary findings were that only one primary school student and one high school student “may have contracted Covid-19 from the initial cases at their schools”.
Low transmission rate
The report added: “No teacher or staff member contracted Covid-19 from any of the initial school cases."
The low transmission rate was despite the fact 735 students and 128 staff were “close contacts” of the initial 18 cases – you can see this in the graphic below.
Previous studies have suggested that younger children are likely to only contract a mild form of coronavirus and do not play a major role in the spread of the disease.
However the NSW study is is believed to be the only major study to look at transmission in primary schools.
They researchers said their findings “do suggest that spread of Covid-19 within NSW schools has been very limited" and transmission “appears considerably less than seen for other respiratory viruses, such as influenza”.
They concluded that the data “suggests that children are not the primary drivers of Covid-19 spread in schools or in the community.
"This is consistent with data from international studies showing low rates of disease in children and suggesting limited spread among children and from children to adults.”
The NSW health minister, Brad Hazzard, said the new report showed “schools are amongst the safest places to be… and that obviously is a very important message to all of us who are parents”.
Schools are amongst the safest places to be… and that obviously is a very important message
Despite this, some scientists believes the fact Australia has a hotter climate in Europe may play a part in lower levels of infection.
However, the results have been supported by early data from countries such as Denmark and Norway which shows that the re-opening of schools has not triggered a spike in the disease.
A senior member of the Sage sub-committee on schools, known as the Children’s Task and Finish Working Group, told The Telegraph that the study is being considered by Government advisers.
It comes amid a long row between unions and the Government about whether or not it's right for children in reception, years one and six in England to go back to primary school from June 1.
Critics say it's not enough time and are concerned having kids back will see the rate of the virus spread creep up again.
Ministers hope reopening schools will be a key step in getting Britain moving again as the country emerges from almost two months of coronavirus lockdown.
Kids will have classroom limits, spaced out desks and staggered classes and year groups in on different days.
Just yesterday, Michael Gove promised that children and teachers will be as "safe as possible" in schools.
The Cabinet Office minister told the BBC yesterday: "Yes, teachers will be safe in schools. I talked to the Chief Scientific Adviser yesterday.
We are confident that children and teachers will be safe
"Running through the figures, the R number, we are confident that children and teachers will be safe, providing the right measures are in place."
He added that it is "extremely unlikely" that any school will be the source of a Covid-19 outbreak.
"We know that school settings are not the source of infection that some have feared; we know that they can be made safe and appropriate working places," he said.
But when grilled on the claims he stressed: "you can never eliminate risk" and added: "There is always, always, always, in any loosening of these restrictions, a risk of people catching the coronavirus."
Dr Soumya Swaminathan, the World Health Organisation’s Chief Scientist, also said on Sunday that “there have not been big outbreaks in schools” and the early results of studies are “very reassuring”.
She said that “the risks to children are extremely low with this infection, and there have not been many cases described of children transmitting it to others, particularly within school settings”.
The Telegraph revealed that Sage – the Government's scientific advisory group – is preparing to publish its own evidence in the coming days which will set out the thinking behind recommending that schools reopen gradually.
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