UK ‘has accepted it doesn’t matter’ if children get Covid

Answering a question over children and Covid at a briefing on Friday, Ms Salisbury said: “I’m really concerned that we seem to that we seem to have accepted – or widely there seems to be acceptance – that it doesn’t really matter so much if children get Covid.

“At least that seems to be the implication of making people go back into schools with no Covid mitigations. There is an implication that it really isn’t that important. And I think it is important.”

The UK appears to have accepted that it “does not really matter” if children are infected Covid, according to an Independent Sage member.

Dr Helen Salisbury, a GP who sits on the group of independent experts, said she was “concerned about the high number of children” with Covid.

Her comments come as new figures show case rates and hospital admissions among school-age children are rising.

More than 100,000 children were off school last week with a confirmed or suspected case of Covid, according to government figures.

Covid measures were scaled back for children just before schools returned for the new school year, with close contacts under 18 years old allowed to carry on as normal until they receive a positive test or get symptoms. The Independent previously reported some headteachers were using their own stricter isolation rules,

School bubbles – which kept pupils and staff in groups to limit mixing – were also scrapped over summer, and masks in communal areas have not been a requirement since May.

Dr Salisbury said trying to prevent children from catching the virus was also important to “try and get a lid” on the Covid pandemic. “If children have it, everybody else gets it, too,” the GP said.

Independent Sage said on Friday “extremely high rates of infection” among schoolchildren was driving the pandemic.

Figures from the UK Health Security Agency released this week showed rising Covid rates among young people, with 722.9 new cases per 100,000 children aged five to nine recorded in the week up to 14 November, compared to 484.5 the week before.

The rate for 10 to 19-year-olds was 694.2 per 100,000 – up from 571.7.

During Friday’s briefing, Dr Salisbury said she was “concerned” over how many children have Covid at the moment.

“I’m concerned that quite a lot of them are being ill which is really unpleasant for them and missing school which is bad for them. I’m concerned that they’re passing it to their families and some of their families may be much more ill which is horrible,” she said.

“And there are some kids who sadly get very ill and need to go to hospital. I think we’re not hearing very much about child hospitalisations.”

In England, there have been 5,600 hospitalisations among 0 to five year olds and 5,800 among six to 17 year olds with Covid since the pandemic began in government figures show,

The latest Office for National Statistics figures also show Covid-positive hospital admissions are 37 per cent higher in five to 14 year olds compared to in January.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We are committed to protecting education, which is why the safety measures in place strike a balance between managing transmission risk with regular testing and enhanced ventilation and hygiene, and reducing disruption to face-to-face learning.

“We continue to work with parents and school and college staff to maximise students’ time in the classroom.  The vaccination programme for 12-15-year-olds has already reached hundreds of thousands of students, and we encourage young people to get the vaccine and continue with twice weekly testing.”

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