Q. Has a new review carried out by Ireland's health watchdog Hiqa scotched the view that children are super spreaders of Covid-19?
A. Hiqa did an evidence review of a limited number of existing studies and came to that conclusion.
Q. How many studies did Hiqa examine?
A. Seven. It concluded that children play a role in passing on the infection but they are not transmitting the coronavirus at a higher rate than others. There was a view that they were vectors and they were an important part of the infection chain.
Q. What did Hiqa find?
A. That children are not substantially contributing to the spread of Covid-19 in their household or in schools. One study suggests that while there is high transmission of Covid-19 among adults aged 25 years or older, it is lower in younger people, particularly in those under 14 years of age.
Q. What was the evidence from the studies?
A. One Australian study examined potential spread from 18 confirmed cases involving nine students and nine staff in 15 schools.
The research examined more than 800 close contacts in the 15 schools and it was found that no teacher or staff member contracted Covid-19 from any of the initial school cases.
One child from a primary school and one child from a high school may have contracted Covid-19 from the initial cases at their schools.
Q. What about passing the virus on to other people in their household?
A. It said that from the small number of studies identified, it appears that children are not, to date, substantially contributing to the household transmission of the virus.
Paediatric cases account for a small percentage of patients.
In a large national epidemiological study from Iceland, where 6pc of the population underwent testing, children under 10 years of age had a lower incidence of the virus than adolescents or adults. They are likely to be asymptomatic.
The emerging evidence in the included studies has highlighted child to adult or family member transmission has the potential to occur, although at extremely low rates.
Q. Have there been many confirmed cases of the virus among children in Ireland?
A. There have been 381 cases recorded in children under 15 years of age, 121 of which involve under-fives.
Q. What conclusions can be drawn from this when deciding whether to reopen schools?
A. It will feed into the decision-making, but because the evidence is confined to a few studies the information is limited.
It would not change the need for physical distancing in schools to protect children and teachers.
Also, schools create a lot of people traffic by way of parents dropping off and collecting children. And that is not good for keeping a lid on the spread of the virus.
However, if a child is with their mother or father in a shop they may not be looked on with the same level of concern.
Q. What about visiting their grandparents?
A. Caution is still needed and there should be no gatherings until there is an official green light and proper guidance from the National Public Health Emergency Team, which will assess safety from various angles.
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