COVID in England increasing fastest among children

·Senior news reporter, Yahoo News UK
·2 min read
COVID rates are highest among secondary school pupils in England, though vaccines are now available for over-12s. (PA)
COVID rates are highest among secondary school pupils in England, though vaccines are now available for over-12s. (PA)

COVID-19 prevalence is far higher among school children in England than the rest of society, new data show.

The latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) infection survey, released on Friday, suggested people in the Years 7 to 11 age category – that is 11 to 16 years old – showed the highest rate of infection in the week ending Sunday.

Some 2.8% of Year 7 to 11 pupils, about one in 35 people, are thought to have had the virus.

This was followed by 2.3% of children in the age two to Year 6 range.

Those rates are far higher than in other age categories, as this ONS graphic demonstrates...

The percentage of people testing positive for COVID by age group in the week ending 18 September. (ONS)
The percentage of people testing positive for COVID by age group in the week ending 18 September. (ONS)

It comes after England's deputy chief medical officer Prof Jonathan Van-Tam warned on Wednesday it is now “inevitable” teenage school pupils will catch coronavirus.

Prof Van-Tam told MPs it is no longer a “theoretical risk” that 12 to 17-year-olds will be infected.

England's chief medical officer Prof Chris Whitty, speaking at the same House of Commons committee hearing, also estimated about half of all children have had the virus, and that the rest are likely to "get it sooner or later".

Watch: Love Island star and TV doctor urge teenagers to get COVID-19 jab

Vaccines are now available for over-12s, however, and Prof Whitty added jabs will "reduce that risk".

The ONS data also comes after government figures showed more than 122,000 children – about 1.5% of pupils – in England were out of school last week for COVID-19-related reasons.

The government has been criticised for its schools COVID strategy, with education union leaders saying some schools are struggling to keep classes open.

Elsewhere in the infection survey, about one in 90 people in private households in England had COVID in the week to Sunday, down from one in 80 the previous week.

One in 90 is the equivalent of about 620,100 people. At the peak of the second wave in early January, about one in 50 people in England were estimated to have coronavirus.

Watch: Friday's politics briefing

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