No healthy child has died from coronavirus in the UK, the biggest study into the condition suggests, as researchers say they are confident in sending their own children back to school.
Research by universities including Edinburgh and Liverpool, discovered that children made up less than one per cent of all people admitted to hospital with Covid-19, and just six youngsters had died overall.
But all the deaths occurred in children with major underlying health conditions such as cerebral palsy or cancer.
The study was based on more than 79,000 admissions to hospitals in Britain, around two thirds of all hospitalisations with Covid-19, of which 651 were children.
Researchers say the number of cases and deaths is ‘staggeringly low’ and is likely to be representative of all admissions.
It was seen by Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty, ahead of his statement at the weekend encouraging parents to send their children back to school.
It confirms that severe coronavirus in children is ‘exceptionally rare’ and only occurs in youngsters who already have serious underlying conditions.
Speaking at a briefing ahead of publication in the BMJ, report author Calum Semple, Professor in Child Health and Outbreak Medicine, University of Liverpool, said: “The fundamental issue here is that we did not have any deaths in otherwise healthy school aged children. Severe disease is rare and death is vanishingly rare.
“In fact the deaths that we did observe were in children with profound comorbidities not a touch of asthma, not cystic fibrosis. These children had existing life-limiting conditions.
“The big policy implication here is that it fits with the return to school. This is the data which Chris Whitty has been relying on when he says we can be quite sure that Covid in itself is not causing harm to children on a significant scale. I am sending my youngest child back to school.”
Co-author Dr Olivia Swann, Clinical Lecturer in Paediatric Infectious Diseases, at University of Edinburgh, added: “Nothing is ever risk free, as a parent and a children’s doctor and as a researcher I find this study and these numbers extremely reassuring.”