This means that Swiss grandparents will soon be able to see and hug their grandchildren, providing welcome relief from the solitude of their isolation. Elderly people over 70 worldwide have been advised to quarantine themselves from their families and the outside world, as they are most at risk of contracting COVID-19 and dying from the illness. However, there are concerns that the solitude of their life in quarantine is impacting their mental and physical health.
At a press conference in Bern, the head of infectious disease unit at the Federal Department of Public Health explained the science behind the decision to allow the family visits.
Dr Daniel Koch told journalists: “Children are very rarely infected and do not pass on the virus.
“That is why small children pose no risk to high-risk patients or grandparents.”
However, children must be under 10 and be showing no signs of illness and grandparents are still advised to avoid prolonged contact with them.
The Swiss findings echoes results from another study carried out earlier this month by a French epidemiologist.
The French scientist examined the case of a nine-year-old British schoolboy who became infected with the virus while on a skiing holiday in France.
Despite coming into contact with over 170 people, the young boy did not infect anyone else.
The epidemiologist concluded that “children might not be an important source of transmissions of this novel virus”.
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Dr Koch acknowledged the psychological benefits for grandparents of being allowed to hug their grandchildren.
He said: “For many, it is very important to have closer contact with the grandchildren.
“We don’t want to take that away from them. Young children are not infectious because they do not have the receptors to be infected.”
The health expert insisted that the advice was based on the latest scientific studies and had been issued after consultation with other experts.
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He explained: “”There is a fairly complicated study that looked to see if there are receptors for the virus in children.
“The advice is also based on consultation with infectiologists and paediatricians from the major universities in Zurich, Bern and Geneva.”
Britain doesn’t look set to follow the Swiss example any time soon, after UK scientists questioned the reliability of the Swiss research.
Although they admitted that children appeared to be less infectious than adults, there was still too little scientific data to draw firm conclusions.
Professor Russell Viner, the president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, told the Daily Telegraph: “We don’t think that it would be a good idea for children to hug their grandparents in the UK without more data.
“We think that children probably transmit Covid-19 less than adults, but we need to be absolutely sure .
“We would need to have a lot more data on that, particularly because elderly grandparents are in the vulnerable group.”
Meanwhile, members of the Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies (SAGE) appear to be increasingly confident that children do not transmit the virus to each other.
This has led to more calls for schools to be re-opened in June.
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