“Children aren’t the motor of the epidemic”

The role played by children in the spread of coronavirus is a focus of attention as Belgium considers a reopening of schools.  Epidemiologist Pierre Van Damme of Antwerp University points to foreign research that suggests that kids are not big spreaders of corona.

“Germany, Denmark and Austria have started to reopen kindergartens and primary schools on the evidence that children are not the biggest spreaders of coronavirus.  It appears young adults and adults are greater spreaders unlike in a flu epidemic.”

“If we look at the burden the illness is placing on the health care system, we notice very few children are very ill and end up in hospital.  Most infected kids have no symptoms.  That’s important when you take a measure for schools: the disease curve won’t rise immediately.”

“It’s unclear whether children pass on the disease.  That’s being investigated.  Chinese and British research shows that in families it’s not children who are passing on corona.  This gives hope for the future, if we are moving towards reopening schools.  It needs to be done with accompanying measures to ensure pupils don’t gather for a long length of time in large groups. This is what they are looking at in Belgium.”

Prof Van Damme says that the corona infection curve must be kept as low as possible.

“If we relax measures, the source of new infections must be mapped out, contacts of the infected person must be identified, and the epidemic virtually needs to be mapped out on an individual basis.”

“You can relax measures, but it takes three weeks to see what happens to the curve.  Only then can you take the next step. If we relax too early - and this is what we are seeing in SE Asia - we see new outbreaks of the epidemic.  It remains a balancing act.”