Researching Reform is calling on the government to set up a children’s task force aimed at protecting children from the virus, as emerging data suggests children could be in grave danger.

The call comes months after this site warned the government that children in the UK were at risk of infection from the virus, and that a significant number of children in care had underlying health conditions making them extremely vulnerable to infection.

One care home has already reported that every single child in its care has been infected with the virus. However the true picture of those infected in residential settings will never be known unless the government implements emergency measures to track the spread of the virus in these homes.

Children and the novel Coronavirus

Despite governments around the world initially claiming children were immune to the virus, this site has repeatedly called for immediate action to ensure children are protected while data on the virus remains limited.

We renewed those calls after speaking with South Korean national lead Dr Chung, who confirmed during an interview that children were not immune and could die from the infection.

That was over a month ago.

Research is now confirming the worst – that children can be infected, and can die from the virus.

UK doctors have become so concerned by the growing number of child cases that they issued a nationwide alert on Twitter on 26th April after several children became critically ill with symptoms linked to the virus.

Since then, over 100 severe cases worldwide have emerged, with that number likely to increase sharply over time.

On 4th May, the U.S. National Institutes of Health launched a study to work out how many children in the country have been infected with the virus.

Research highlighted online by the Daily Mail (the only newspaper so far to cover this data) offers these key findings:

  • A Chinese study found children under 14 had triple the number of contacts as adults
  • Researchers said school closures can lower peak cases by 40-60% and delay epidemic
  • A Germany study found children can carry as high levels of COVID-19 in their bodies as adults
  • Findings showed asymptomatic youngsters had viral loads as high or higher than symptomatic children or adults

Children in Care 

Children in care are particularly vulnerable to infection as they live in often cramped quarters with a large portion of that population experiencing serious physical and mental health conditions.

Finding out how many children in these settings have been infected is almost impossible while no mandatory duty to report to a single, unified government database or independent body exists.

The sector, which can only run if it has children it can pass on to foster carers and adopters has little to no incentive to report cases, as doing so would damage their business. No foster parent or adoptee would take in a child with COVID-19 and risk infecting themselves or their existing families.

Children in school 

Researchers around the world are warning governments that sending children back to school while the virus is still visible could lead to a second wave of infections, with one test suggesting that reopening schools could cause a sharp spike in cases.

However many parents have complained that the virtual lessons on offer from organisations like the BBC are not nearly good enough, and are calling on schools to reopen over fears that their children are falling behind.

How the task force should work 

The government needs to set up a task force to ensure children are protected from the virus.

The body would be able to:

  • Approve grants for emergency paediatric research on how the virus affects children, its spread, infection from child to child and child to adult, and the rate of infection
  • Recommend legislation to ensure children are protected – for example, imposing a mandatory duty on care home bosses to report COVID-19 cases to the body’s database and a mandatory duty to have every child in the UK tested for COVID-19
  • Fine organisations who try to suppress cases (i.e. claiming infected children have ‘colds’)
  • Set up any sub-committee it needs, for example an education sub-committee with parents and tech companies to produce high quality virtual lessons for every age group

Useful links:

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Source: An analysis of SARS-CoV-2 viral load by patient age