England’s deputy chief medical officer Dr Jenny Harries has backed guidance published last month by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) which says that most of the 92,000 youngsters with conditions such as asthma, diabetes, epilepsy, and kidney disease do not need to continue to shield and could go back to school.
‘Vast majority of children don’t need to shield’, expert says, and will be taken off list by August
The government has now said the majority of children in England who are currently considered extremely clinical vulnerable to Covid-19 will be able to be removed from the shielded patient list over the summer. Specialists and GPs will contact children and their families to discuss the move in the coming weeks.
“I do not under-estimate the difficulty of children having to stay indoors and to only have limited contact with family and friends for such a long time,” Dr Harries said. “As our understanding of this novel virus has developed, evidence shows most children and young people are at low risk of serious illness and will no longer be advised to shield after July.
“Families who are uncertain about whether shielding is right for their child in the future will want to discuss this with their doctor, who will be best placed to determine the most appropriate care. These discussions will take place over the summer.”
Dr Mike Linney, registrar at the RCPCH, said: “Lockdown has been tough on children generally, but especially for those who have been shielding. It’s been a long haul for thousands of families, and we hope this announcement brings some relief.
“Fortunately children are less affected by Covid-19. This appears to be the case not just in the UK but worldwide. However, they have suffered from the social effects of lockdown, isolation, and school closures.
“We know that many families who have been shielding will have concerns. The important point of this guidance is that paediatricians and specialist doctors now have better information to discuss shielding with patients and their families.
“Children under the sole care of a GP are very unlikely to need to continue shielding, but if you are worried, seek reassurance. Should we face a second wave, this guidance will allow us to make better decisions about who needs to shield.
“It was right to be cautious when we knew so little about the virus, but we now have a lot of evidence to guide us. We can be confident that the vast majority of children and young people don’t need to shield.”