The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) and Datcov released a surveillance report on children under the age of 19, which stated that “peaks in cases in the first, second and third wave did not appear to be related to the timing of the opening and closing of schools”.
This suggests that schools are not the main contributors to the waves of COVID-19.
The data revealed that in 2021 children and adolescents were less likely to be diagnosed or hospitalised with COVID-19 than adults.
Dr Tendesayi Kufa-Chakeza, the senior epidemiologist at the NICD, explained that the data collected does not show which children are at school, who is online and who is not. The data was collected on a national level, which means that it was not extremely detailed.
However, they were able to plot the data and see if the cases appeared when the schools were open and closed.
From the data, they were able to establish that there was no correlation between when schools were open and the peaks in COVID-19.
Dr Kufa-Chakeza stated that children are less likely to be diagnosed with COVID-19, develop symptoms, be hospitalised, and less likely to die from COVID-19. However, these factors are not the same across all age groups as it is age-dependent.
The data has shown that risks of COVID-19 increase with age, in children and adults. Younger children have been less likely to transmit the virus when compared to teenagers.
Even though the studies have not been done in South Africa, they have been done in countries like Korea which showed that children under the age of 10 were less likely to transmit COVID-19, whereas all children were as likely as adults to transmit the virus.
This is why these countries have started vaccinating children. Which may eventually happen in South Africa as well.