No children under 14 have died from coronavirus in England and Wales for the 10th week in a row, figures reveal.
According to the latest report from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), there have been five deaths involving COVID-19 in children aged one to 14 this year in the two countries.
The latest ONS figures, published on Tuesday, showed there were 51,596 deaths involving COVID-19 in England and Wales up to 24 July, and had been registered by 1 August.
Added to recent statistics for Scotland and Northern Ireland, it means there have been 56,651 deaths in the UK where COVID-19 was mentioned on the death certificate, including suspected cases.
On Tuesday, junior local government minister Simon Clarke insisted that reopening schools in autumn was “not up for debate”, and that it would go ahead as planned despite concerns from scientists that the NHS Test and Trace system is not adequate enough to prevent a second wave after pupils do return.
Researchers from University College London (UCL) and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) warned that reopening schools could trigger a serious second COVID-19 peak unless testing and tracing is scaled up.
Their study, published in The Lancet Child and Adolescent Health, modelled various scenarios and found that in the worst case, a second wave in December could be 2.3 times higher than the first.
Watch the video below
But Clarke told Sky News: “One thing is clear, schools are going to reopen in full in the autumn, that is not up for debate.
“There’s nothing gung-ho about getting schools back. There is little doubt about the major damage that it does to children’s education not to be in school.”
Russell Viner, professor of adolescent health at UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health, said: “This is model data but the real data is showing very little transmission in schools.”
Scientific evidence on how much children are affected by coronavirus remains inconclusive, although there have been a number of studies with small sample sizes.
The latest, from Australia, found there were “low” levels of COVID-19 transmission in schools and nurseries.
The New South Wales study, also published in The Lancet Child and Adolescent Health, examined 25 schools and nurseries and found that although 27 children or teachers attended while infectious, only 18 more people later became infected.
The study concluded: “Children and teachers did not contribute significantly to COVID-19 transmission via attendance in educational settings”.
In May, a study by UCL found that children are 56% less likely to catch coronavirus as adults.
Last month, a small study carried out by Great Ormond Street Hospital found that four out of 27 children who tested positive for COVID-19 showed signs of brain damage, although all of them improved.
Carl Heneghan, professor of evidence-based medicine at the University of Oxford, called last month for an urgent review into how Public Health England (PHE) recorded coronavirus deaths, after it emerged the data may have included those who tested positive months before they died.
Responding to the latest ONS figures, Prof Heneghan said: “In children aged one to 14 there have been five COVID deaths this year – a very low risk – approximately one registered death for every two million children.
“In over 85s, those most at risk, COVID deaths continue to fall – 71 people died in week 30. This is a substantial reduction (98% fewer) from the peak in week 16 when 3,435 deaths occurred in over 85s.
“It remains concerning that while the number of deaths in care homes, hospitals and other communal establishments remains below the five-year average, the number of deaths in private homes remains higher than the five-year average (727 more deaths in week 30).”
Coronavirus: what happened today
Click here to sign up to the latest news and information with our daily Catch-up newsletter