A scientific review did not conclude that there are no cases of children transmitting the new coronavirus

7th May 2020

Claim

A study has concluded that there have been no cases of children transmitting the new coronavirus.

Conclusion

This claim is taken out of context. It is the finding of one study among a review that found contradictory evidence about transmission of the new coronavirus in children. The review concluded that “the role of children in passing the disease to others is unknown”.

“No single case of a child passing coronavirus to an adult exists, study claims”

The Mirror, 29 April 2020

Many news outlets have claimed that a new study has concluded that there are no known cases of children under the age of 10 transmitting the new coronavirus to adults.

This is not what was concluded by the study these stories are referring to. 

The study is a review of the existing research into Covid-19 and children, carried out by a panel of doctors in collaboration with the Royal College of Paediatricians and Child Health. 

The review is not a new study of coronavirus cases, as reporting by the Mirror appears to suggest.

Nor does the review aim to find cases of children under 10 who had passed the new coronavirus to adults, as the media reports imply. 

The aim, as explained by the authors, is to summarise the most important and relevant research about Covid-19 disease and children. 

The review includes a summary of the evidence on the transmission of the new coronavirus in children

This information is based on the previous version of the review, published on 22 April 2020. The review was updated on 2 March, but broadly contains the same information. 

Within the summary, the authors refer to some findings produced by the China/World Health Organisation (WHO) joint commission: “Notably the China/WHO joint commission could not recall episodes during contact tracing where transmission occurred from a child to an adult”.

News outlets reported this finding, out of context, as the overall result of the review. 

Whilst the review did not document any specific cases where a child to adult transmission occurred, it described several studies that offer contradictory evidence on the potential for transmission.

The review did not conclude that adults cannot catch the virus from children. It stated (at the time that the news articles were written) that “the role of children in passing the disease to others is unknown, in particular given large numbers of asymptomatic cases”. 

Dr Alasdair Munro, one of the authors of the review, told us that “the quote is taken from the China/WHO joint commission and ignores all the other subsequent evidence which is completely consistent with child to adult transmission, albeit seemingly less than adult to adult transmission.”

The Royal College of Paediatricians and Child Health have issued a statement to stress that the news reports “have incorrectly suggested that children cannot transmit COVID-19. This is not the RCPCH position, nor is it based on evidence.”