“We say with confidence that it is safe for all children, with the exception of some very exceptional cases, to go back to school, respecting some basic hygiene measures adapted to their age,” they said in a press statement on Thursday. “In our opinion, the disadvantages associated with extended quarantine do not outweigh the advantages of restarting school. Education is a basic right of every child and school plays a key role in this,” they added.
The role of children in the spread of the coronavirus appears to be very different from that of other respiratory viruses such as the flu virus, according to virologist and inter-federal Covid-19 spokesperson Steven Van Gucht.
“With the flu, it has long been known that children are the driving force behind the annual epidemic. The virus first begins to spread among children, then to their parents, and then to the grandparents,” he said. “With this coronavirus, we have indications that children only play a limited role in the spread. In contrast to the flu, the spread takes place mainly between adults, who infect each other,” Van Gucht added.
“Occasionally, the virus also spreads from parents to their children, but we see very few infections that spread from children to adults, or even between children,” said Van Gucht, adding that it is still possible.
In the Netherlands, a study showed that the infection rate for adults was around 4% in April, while it was 2% for people under 20 years old. “Everything seems to point in the direction that children are not important spreaders of this virus,” Van Gucht said.
“They can be infected, and they can become mildly ill, but their role is less important than that of adults,” he added.