The number of secondary-school age children infected with COVID-19 has tripled in a month, so is it time to abandon social distancing and masks?

Above is the estimated fraction of secondary-school age (years 7 to 11) children that are infected with COVID-19, as a function of time from 1st June to 3rd July, 2021. The solid curve is the best estimate, while the dotted curves are the bottom and top of a 95% confidence interval. It is estimated that we are 95% confident that the true fraction of children infected lies between the two dotted curves. The data is for England and is from the UK government’s ONS. At the start of June, about 0.3% or 1 in 300 children in this age range had COVID-19. As of early July it is about 1% or 1 in 100*. And it is still going up. Schools break up in a few weeks which will I guess stop the rise, but perhaps not before it is has hit 2%.

As of 17th May, a couple of weeks before the start of this plot, the government dropped the requirement to wear a mask in school. And it plans to drop mask wearing and social distancing almost altogether next week. The justification for this seems to rest almost entirely on vaccination. Vaccines are wonderful, and have and will save many lives. But no English children are vaccinated. So what’s the plan for children? I guess the point of this blog post is just show the plot above and to express a personal opinion: I am amazed that the number of children being infected with COVID-19 is increasing exponentially, and the government’s COVID-19 plan is to implement measures that will accelerate this.

The mortality rate among healthy children is very very low, but they still can suffer from long COVID, and there is the disruption to their education. And even when vaccinated, the mortality rate among their grandparents’ generation is low but far from zero. Already, the odds are about 1 in 100 that when a grandmother is hugging her grandchild she is hugging someone with COVID-19, and this is increasing.

* For comparison, the rate of infection in people my age (50) is about a five times lower, at 0.2 %.

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