A HUGE rise in Covid cases in unvaccinated children in Israel has given a glimpse of what’s to come in the UK, experts say.
Infections have risen by 20 per cent in Israelis aged up to 20 years old since they returned to education more than two weeks ago.
? Read our coronavirus live blog for the latest news & updates…
The graph shows trends in cases in Israelis by age group since the vaccine programme began on December 19 (used as a reference point)
Infections in children (pink line) increased by 21 per cent between February 20 and March 6 – in which time schools reopened
Schools reopened in England on March 8 as the first step of easing lockdown.
Children are not authoritsed to receive the coronavirus vaccine, while teenagers at universities or college will be the last on the list.
Teachers will be vaccinated depending on their age with the rest of the general population, despite calls for them to be prioritised early.
Dr Sterghios Moschos, an associate professor in cellular science at Northumbria University, told The Sun: “I fully anticipate a new wave starting from school age kids to start becoming noticeable about a month or so from now.
“In late August we ran at 1,000 cases per day roughly and by the end of September we had the second wave in full swing.
“Today we run at 6,000 cases per day roughly so in a month from now we should be seeing the signs of a new wave.”
Modelling by scientists has already predicted another wave of Covid that will peak sometime from summer.
The size of it is dependent on how slow society is opened back up, with between 30,000 and 80,000 more Covid deaths estimated.
Although the vaccines are hailed as the route out of the pandemic, there will still be people who do not get the jab, including children, or for whom the jab does not work.
Israel has vaccinated more than half of its population so far, becoming a real world experiment of how the vaccines are impacting the outbreak.
But the country’s coronavirus “tsar”, Nachman Ash, has said the ineligibility of under-16s is “troubling”, according to The Guardian.
Data shows cases went up by 21 per cent between February 20 and March 6 in people aged between 0 to 19 yeas old in Israel.
Infections have generally continued to decline on older age groups, according to Our World in Data which uses records from the Israeli government,
Gabriel Scally, public health physician and president of epidemiology and public health at Royal Society of Medicine, said: “I would expect the same in the UK as schools have gone back, with little, if any, mitigation such as improved ventilation, being taken over.”
He said this is “a real issue” given children can also get long Covid.
Dr Moschos said the hope is that lateral flow testing will counteract the impact of education opening up and “blunt the next wave”.
But the rapid tests are not perfect and will miss some cases of the coronavirus.
Dr Moschos – the developer of breath test for Covid – says lateral flow tests will not catch infected people with low viral loads who are still capable of spreading the virus.
On top of this, “kids at school who want to be just kids: physical distancing and masks are ignored when the grownups are not looking”.
“The net result will therefore inexorably be another wave in children, teaching staff, and the associated families: all groups not vaccinated”, Dr Moschos said.
“A cascade effect in those in their 20’s is also fully predictable, as they are not vaccinated, and they previously were found to be driving transmission.
“We are repeating the same mistakes as in autumn because of conviction and not data.
“There is too much at stake here to allow our focus to be distracted from the pandemic no matter the severity of other societal issues or day to day living concerns we may have.”
Schools in England reopened on March 8. Pictured: Pupils gather in the playground for a break on their first day back from lockdown at Chertsey High SchoolCredit: Getty Images – Getty
Dr Sterghios Moschos said “kids at school who want to be just kids: physical distancing and masks are ignored when the grownups are not looking”. Pictured: Pupils eat lunch in the canteen on their first day back from lockdown at Chertsey High SchoolCredit: Getty Images – Getty
Dr Simon Clarke said the data from Israel is “real world evidence” that widespread vaccination will not entirely stop the spread of the virus.
Therefore, he said “the UK governments are right to be cautious” in terms of lifting the lockdown.
He added: “Over the coming weeks, NHS planners will doubtless have an eye on what effect this uptick in infections has on hospital admissions.
“If the Israeli vaccination programme has worked as intended, any increase [in hospitalisations] will be small.”
It comes after England’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty – who has been at the forefront of guiding the Government’s response to Covid – warned of a third wave to come, saying that younger people tend to “drive the wave of infection”.
“They’ve not yet been vaccinated, and therefore vaccination will have almost no role to play in reducing transmission in that group for some time”, Prof Whitty told MPs at a Science and Technology Committee.
The younger generations will be looking forward to meeting with friends in groups of six from the end of March, if the lockdown exit goes to plan.
And from June, it is expected social distancing will be scrapped all together, allowing for a return to normality.
But it won’t be until July that every adult in Britain is planned to have the first dose of their vaccine.
Prof Whitty said: “If you released very quickly, you would suddenly get a wave of transmission through younger adults, and that would lead in due course to older adults being infected and some of them – either because they hadn’t had the vaccine or because they weren’t fully protected by the vaccine – would go on to get serious outcomes.”
But he reassured those who go on to die would be dramatically reduced as a result of vaccines.