'Very lucky': How the Delta variant impacts children

·2-min read

A paediatric specialist working on the frontline of the NSW Covid crisis has reassured anxious parents it will be safe to send students back to school next month.

Professor Christine McCartney from Sydney Children’s Hospital and the National Centre for Immunisation Research & Surveillance (NCIRS) has unveiled a new report on the spread of Covid among children in educational settings.

It comes as NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian pushes ahead with controversial plans for a staggered return to face-to-face learning from October 25, despite rising Covid cases.

Professor Kristine Macartney appeared at the daily press briefing to allay concerns about child hospitalisations from Delta. Source: AAP
Professor Kristine Macartney appeared at the daily press briefing to allay concerns about child hospitalisations from Delta. Source: AAP

Research shows Delta is mild in children

The fifth NCIRS report found most children diagnosed with Covid-19 during the current Delta outbreak experienced mild or no symptoms and only two per cent were taken to hospital.

“We're very lucky to know, and it's consistent with data over the course of the pandemic, that Covid-19 is mild among children,” she told reporters on Wednesday, appearing at the daily press briefing.

“We've seen extremely few children admitted to the intensive care unit.”

Earlier this week it was revealed three children who tested positive for the Delta variant in NSW were on ventilators while more than 2,000 children statewide were being treated after testing positive for the disease.

Unvaccinated adults remain biggest spreaders

She said the highest rate of spread in educational settings was among unvaccinated adult staff at childcare centres.

“The spread of virus also occurred from adults to children but the spread between children themselves was very low. This really affirms what we know about the Delta virus,” she said.

View of large exam room hall and examination desks tables lined up in rows ready for students at a high school to come and sit their exams tests papers.
A staggered return to face-to-face learning in Covid safe settings will begin on October 25. Source: Getty Images

Covid-safe future for schools

She also confirmed Covid-safe practices in schools will centre around masks and outdoor learning as further research is conducted into classroom airflow and ventilation.

Professor McCartney hoped the findings would allay concerns and provide a “light at the end of the tunnel” for parents struggling with home-schooling.

“As a paediatrician, and a parent, I know how important education is and particularly face-to-face learning for children's well being, development and mental health, and families have really been suffering during this time and shouldn't have been, you know, having a hard time but there is light at the end of the tunnel."

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