According to the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH), the risks of transmission of Covid-19 by children are almost nonexistent. Based on that assertion, the Federal Council decided to re-open primary schools next Monday.
But two newly released Swiss studies cast doubt on this claim.
Research by the National COVID-19 Science Task Force found that the role of children in the transmission of this disease “remains highly uncertain”.
“We cannot currently draw firm conclusions about whether or not children can transmit the virus”, the report stated.
Another study, conducted by the Center for Emerging Viral Diseases, which is part of the Geneva University Hospital (HUG) and the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Geneva, concluded that “it would be naive not to consider children as transmitters”.
Isabella Eckerle, one of the authors of the Geneva study, noted that “children have been particularly protected since the start of the epidemic and their contacts have been limited, this could partly explain why there is little evidence of transmission from them”.
However, even in view of this new evidence, Swiss health authorities maintain their position that children who do not show symptoms are not vectors of infection, which justifies the re-opening of schools.
“So far, everything indicates that children are not transmitting the disease. Unlike the flu or other respiratory illnesses where children play a major role in the epidemic, with coronavirus it is different”, Daniel Koch, head of the FOPH’s infectious diseases unit said in an interview with the RTS television this weekend.
He added that based on all “serious and observational studies”, like those carried out in Iceland and Australia, “children are rarely affected by this disease”.
Koch also said that it is now deemed safe for “grandparents to hug their grandchildren”.
The Swiss Pediatric Society (SSP) has also supported the government’s decision to re-open schools on May 11th because “all the studies and observations carried out so far confirm the hypothesis that children are rarely infected and those who are infected rarely spread the virus”.
In Switzerland, 104 children under 10 have been tested positive for coronavirus to date. But the real number may be higher, as not everyone has symptoms that warrant testing.
In the meantime, several children in Switzerland have been hospitalised with a mysterious inflammatory disease that affects the small arteries. Only one of the children had tested positive for Covid-19.
“The virus triggers an inflammatory storm which is a disproportionate reaction of the immune system,” the Geneva cantonal doctor Jacques-André Romand said in an interview.
At this time, doctors can’t say whether the illness, which has also hit children in other countries, including France, is related to Covid-19, although Koch said it is “a phenomenon of immune reaction after a coronavirus infection”.
The decision to resume classes while the pandemic is not finished has stirred controversy in Switzerland, with many school officials and parents arguing that the studies of the infection among children are inconclusive and may put students and teachers at risk.
They also raised concerns because the authorities have not yet specified what protective measures will be implemented in schools to prevent contagion.