COVID-19 infections among children in England soared in September after schools returned from summer vacation, contributing to higher living cases despite a decline in adults, a large prevalence study showed on Thursday.
The REACT-1 study, led by Imperial College London, is the latest to find that more children are becoming infected with COVID-19 since schools reopened in early September.
The number of infections in the UK is currently much higher than in other Western European countries, but has not risen above summer levels since the return of schools in England, despite high infection rates among children.
The study found that between September 9 and 27, there was a prevalence of 2.55 percent among those aged 13 to 17, with a prevalence of 2.32 percent among those aged 5 to 12. Prevalence estimates for each adult age group were less than one percent.
Study director Paul Elliott told reporters, “While the prevalence was high among school-aged children and was increasing during September, an increase in vaccination among school-aged children and adults would help limit transmission.
The study, which analyzed 100,527 valid swabs, found the epidemic was increasing among those 17 and younger, with an estimated fertility “R” number of 1.18.
An R number above one means exponential growth, while a number below one means the epidemic is shrinking. The epidemic was estimated to be shrinking among 18- to 54-year-olds, with an R number of 0.81, while the epidemic was broadly stable among those 55. While nearly 90 percent of those over the age of 18 received a single dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. However, vaccination rates for children are very low, and widespread immunization of people aged 12 to 15 years began only last month.
Dr Brian Ferguson from the University of Cambridge’s immunology division told Reuters: “Such a massive spread among school children could have been avoided … if they had vaccinated earlier.”
He said it looked like transmission from children to adults would not be a major problem, but that winter was growing uncertain.
In daily figures, Britain on Wednesday reported 42,776 new COVID-19 cases, the highest since mid-July, but UK Health Minister Sajid Javid downplayed the volatility in the numbers.
“Overall things are pretty stable at this point. Over the past few weeks the numbers are up a little bit, a little low,” he told Times Radio. The government strategy was working.
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