Children made up just 1% of COVID-19 cases in the first wave of the pandemic in England, it has been revealed.
Researchers concluded that children are not an important source of COVID-19 infection after a study showed they make up a small proportion of cases.
This is despite large numbers being tested.
Comparing disease trends in adults and children, the research analysed data from the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic in England (January to May 2020).
Between 16 January and 3 May, 540,305 people – including 35,200 children under the age of 16 – were tested for COVID-19.
Low positive cases
Around one in four (24%) of all those tested had the virus.
And children accounted for 1,408 of the 129,704 positive results. This is equal to 1% of the total and 4% of the 35,200 tests carried out on them.
In comparison, this figure ranges between 19% and 35% for adults.
Additionally, positive cases were also low in children with acute respiratory infections. For example, 2,961 people with respiratory illnesses were tested for COVID-19 and only 10 children (2.8%) were positive.
Comparatively, positive cases were found in 9% of 15-44 year olds; 18.5% of 45-64 year olds; 20.5% of 65-79 year olds; and 45.5% of those aged 80 and above.
The British Society of Paediatric Dentistry (BSPD) welcomed the study, hoping it will help to reassure families and dental teams.
‘We welcome the finding that children are not an important source of infection from COVID-19,’ said Stephen Fayle, a consultant in paediatric dentistry and a media spokesman for BSPD.
‘Ensuring child welfare, and the meeting of urgent dental needs, has been paramount throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. The child and dental team are in very close proximity during face-to-face dentistry. Dentists have adopted nationally developed standard operating procedures to minimise the risk of dentist-to-child and child-to-dentist transmission during active treatment.
‘During lockdown, in addition to enhanced infection control processes, this required restricting face-to-face treatment to only very urgent cases at designated centres.
‘Since early June family dentists have been reopening and seeing more of their patients. This study will help to reassure both families and dentists that where a visit for dental care is needed, with all the additional infection control measures currently being taken, the risks to children, and to those treating them, are relatively small.’
Importance of collaboration
He added: ‘In many parts of the UK, urgent referral pathways have been enhanced to ensure children who needed to be seen most urgently continue to be able to access specialist dental care as promptly as possible.
‘Effective clinical networks and collaboration have never been so important.’
The association has also been exploring less invasive and lower-risk treatment options for children. These include special, easily-placed fillings, preformed crowns and novel fluoride treatments to slow down decay.