As Covid-19 continues to spread aggressively within communities, the Health Secretary announced today that secondary school children in London boroughs, and parts of Essex and Kent, will soon be tested. Many think, however, that the government may have misjudged the health risks associated to children for too long, Dr Joe Pajak writes.

First published in December 2020.

This afternoon, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock, announced that mass testing will start immediately for secondary age children in the worst affected areas of London, Essex, and Kent.

Some will feel that the testing of all secondary age children is long overdue.

Covid-19 and children

There has been much debate over the past 10 months on the impact of Covid-19 on children and its potential transmission via children, to their families, and onwards to their local communities.

Dr Zoë Hyde, an epidemiologist and biostatistician, based at the Western Australia Centre for Health and Ageing, University of Western Australia, has presented several very insightful observations on Covid-19, relating to schools, children, and virus transmission.

Children may transmit coronavirus at the same rate as adults – What we now know about schools and COVID-19.
The risk associated with schools is tied to the level of community transmission. The more community transmission there is, the more transmission there will be in schools.

Recent research provided further evidence that children and adults are equally susceptible, and similarly likely to transmit. “Schools have been a driver of the second wave in Europe, Canada, and elsewhere,” Dr Hyde concludes.

Many parents, scientists, educationalists, and people with an understandable interest in the mode of transmission of the virus and the risks to children, families, and communities, believe that the health risks to children (and the risks of children transmitting the virus to others) are aspects that the government may have misjudged. Time for far more detail to be provided, and for far more action. The announcement today about mass testing of secondary age children in some parts of the country should perhaps be applied in other areas, or much more widely?

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Today’s data

Meanwhile, today’s data indicate that Covid-19 virus continues to spread aggressively within communities. The data shows that a further 516 people have lost their lives to Covid-19 in the last 24 hours in the UK; while 6,071 people have died in the last 14 days – it is the 17th day in a row that the 14-day total number of deaths has exceeded 6,000.

Note: The data for deaths attributed to Covid-19, each following a reported positive test result for Covid-19 within 28 days of their death.

Today’s Government data also indicates that there have been 214,508 new cases reported in the past 14 days, 21% fewer than the 14-day figures reported on 27 November. Today’s trendline chart, and headline UK Covid-19 data, indicate that the situation remains very delicately balanced.

UK Covid-19 headline data, reported on 10 December 2020:

  • 20,964 positive tests
  • 516 more deaths in the last 24 hours
  • 1,464 hospital admissions (reported as of 03/12)
  • 15,242 hospital in-patients (reported as of 08/12)
  • 1,243 patients on ventilation beds (reported as of 09/12)

315 days after the first case was reported in the UK, 1,787,782 cases have been reported, together with 63,082 deaths.

However, these data include only those who have died within 28 days of testing positive; other measures suggest the number of deaths is higher: 73,125 being reported as “the total number of deaths of people whose death certificate mentioned Covid-19 as one of the causes, registered up to Friday, 27 November 2020.”🔷

Data source:

Dr Joe Pajak, Professional experience applied scientific research and development, then director of a national children’s charity, trustee of a disability charity, and governor of NHS foundation trust hospitals.


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🗳️ Matt Hancock

[This piece was first published in PMP Magazine on 10 December 2020. | The author writes in a personal capacity.]

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