Children under 10 years old are almost 20 times more likely to die from an accidental injury than of Covid-19, a study has claimed.
The research adds to growing evidence that youngsters are not vulnerable to serious illness from the disease.
Scientists led by Newcastle University also found under-10s are twice as likely to die from flu than they are from the coronavirus.
When looking at the risk of Covid-19 deaths in those between the ages of 10 and 19, it was three times lower than the risk of dying from an injury.
However, Covid-19 deaths were estimated to be four times higher than flu in that group, the study found. This showed people should not ignore the coronavirus completely and should still be cautious, the researchers said.
A small number of Covid-19 deaths were among children in the UK – 12 in the 10-19 age group and three in the under-10 age group.
Most of these children would have had underlying health conditions, research has shown, which make them more vulnerable to serious illness.
Children under 10 years old are almost 20 times more likely to die from an injury than of Covid-19, a study claims (stock image)
Dr Sunil Bhopal, from Newcastle University’s Population Health Sciences Institute, led the research.
He and colleagues compared Covid-19 deaths with other causes of death in children from seven countries – the UK, the US, Italy, Germany, Spain, France and South Korea.
They calculated how many deaths would typically occur from all causes, other than Covid-19, from March 1 to July 31.
Mortality data from all causes was taken from 2017, along with three years’ worth of flu data from each country’s official records.
CHILDREN ARE ‘SIX TIMES LESS LIKELY TO SPREAD THE VIRUS THAN ADULTS’
Children are six times less likely to spread coronavirus than adults, a study has claimed as children in England return to school today.
The study was run by the Sant Joan de Déu Barcelona Children’s Hospital and spanned over five weeks.
Researchers looked at 1,905 people who have taken part in activities in a school-like environment at 22 summer camps across Barcelona.
They were mixing in similar situations to schools but spent most of their time outdoors and not in classrooms, the researchers in Barcelona said.
There were basic containment measures that will be commonplace in schools globally – frequent hand washing, small bubble groups, and face mask wearing.
Swab testing every week found 30 infected children passed the virus on to just 12 others, despite having more than 250 close contacts in their ‘bubble’.
This gave the children an R rate of 0.3 – almost six times lower than that of the general population at the time of the study (1.7 to 2) in the areas where the camps were held.
That means that for every 100 children who were infected, just 30 others would catch the disease from them. By comparison, in the general population 100 people would have infected between 170 and 200 others.
Most of the paediatric index cases (22) detected did not transmit any infection in the camps, the researchers said.
Five index cases transmitted the infection to one contact each, two of them infected two contacts and one gave it to three contacts, revealing that individuals are not equally contagious.
The younger children under 12 years old spread the coronavirus at a similar rate to older children, aged between 13 and 17 years old.
The findings give hope that schools will not be the source of Covid-19 outbreaks because spread is not more likely to occur there.
Covid-19 mortality data was taken from The National Institute of Demographic Studies, which uses data from each country’s statistical agencies.
In an estimated total population of 137million, there were 78 child deaths from Covid-19 compared with an estimated 21,966 deaths from all causes.
Covid-19 accounted for 0.35 per cent of deaths in children aged to 19 years old.
On the other hand, there were 1,755 caused by unintentional injury. Injuries were not described in the study but may include car accidents or burns. And there were 178 deaths caused by the flu.
The researchers said in their pre-print paper: ‘Five months of data show that in these countries, children are at much greater risk of death from other elements of normal life, than from Covid-19.
‘Our fears of increased virulence in children, so far, are unfounded. Nonetheless, vigilance is necessary as the pandemic may unfold differently.’
Looking at data specifically for England and Wales, 15 people under the age of 20 have died of Covid-19 during the entire outbreak up to July 10.
Covid-19 accounted for 0.17 per cent of all deaths in children under the age of 10 years old. There were three Covid-19 deaths in this age group compared with 57 for an injury and seven for the flu.
For children aged between 10 and 19, there were 12 Covid-19 deaths (2.38 per cent of the total) – three times lower than the 44 from an injury.
But there were only three deaths from flu in this group, four times lower than Covid-19.
Dr Bhopal told MailOnline: ‘I’m not able to easily explain the flu deaths versus Covid deaths except to speculate. Certainly something to keep an eye on and be careful about.
‘We mustn’t minimise the risks of this terrible virus but our message is aligned with that of the children’s commissioner – that for children, the risks of being kept at home now outweigh the risks of letting them get back to normal life which is important for their development and progression.’
Although there were sadly 15 Covid-19 deaths in children, scientists have previously said none have been in healthy children.
A major government-funded study published last week looked at six children under the age of 15 who have died of Covid-19.
The researchers said they all had serious health problems such as cancer or cerebral palsy when they caught the virus.
Scientists led by the University of Liverpool found that one per cent of hospitalised children died, compared to a significantly higher 27 per cent of adults.
This means that while one in four adults who ended up in hospital with Covid-19 died of it, only one in 100 children did.
Deaths (green) and the proportion of them caused by injury (blue), Covid-19 (red), flu (yellow) and lower respiratory tract infections (orange) in seven countries studied
Parents should be reassured that their children will not be put in danger by returning to school, the scientists who led the study, published in the British Medical Journal, said.
Today’s study found across the globe, Covid-19 never accounted for more than one per cent of deaths in under 10s in Italy (0.56 per cent), Germany (0.079 per cent), Spain (0.64 per cent), France (0.22 per cent) and South Korea (0 per cent).
For over 10s, the figures were more varied, with the highest in the UK (2.38 per cent) followed by Spain (two per cent), France (0.8 per cent) and Germany (0.35 per cent).
Covid-19 accounted for 0 per cent of deaths in those aged between 10 and 19 years old in Italy and South Korea.
In the US, the age brackets were different due to the way data is collected. In children under the age of four, Covid-19 caused 23 deaths, accounting for 0.21 per cent.
In those aged five to 14, Covid-19 caused 19 deaths – 0.83 per cent of the total.
Dr Bhopal said children were at ‘minimal risk’ from coronavirus, but had suffered greatly, as a result of lockdown and months without school.
He told The Telegraph: ‘We continue to meet and hear from parents, carers, teachers and others who worry for their children’s safety from coronavirus. We aim to continue to reassure them that this remains a predominantly adult-focussed disease.’
The study, which is due to be published in Public Health journal, follows a string of studies reassuring that children should be safe from catching the coronavirus when returning to school this week.
Public Health England have reassured that just 0.01 per cent of schools have suffered a Covid-19 outbreak since they re-opened for Year 1 and Year 6 in June.
Only 70 children out of 1.6million who had returned to school in June tested positive for Covid-19. Another 128 members of staff tested positive.
The analysis said the majority of cases linked to outbreaks were in staff and warned that school staff needed to be ‘more vigilant for exposure outside the school setting to protect themselves, their families and the educational setting’.
Another study published last week found children are six times less likely to spread coronavirus than adults after tracking how the coronavirus spread in a group of 1,900 people, mostly children, who spent five weeks at summer camps in Spain.