Coronavirus (COVID-19): Advisory Sub-Group on Education and Children’s Issues - evidence on children, schools, early learning and childcare settings and transmission- summary report

Summary report of the evidence on children, schools, early learning and childcare settings and transmission from COVID-19.

Current state of the epidemic

Scotland, and the wider UK, has been experiencing the third wave of the pandemic since May 2021. The profile of the third wave differs from that of the first two waves in that most positive cases tend to be in younger adults and there are many fewer COVID-related hospitalisations  and death. The number of people now being admitted to hospital with COVID-19 (with a 7 day lag after the specimen date for a positive case) has fallen as a percentage of reported cases during 2021 from around 10% in January 2021 to around 4% in June.

Between March and July 2020, adults older than 40 years of age contributed to more than half of the confirmed COVID-19 cases in Scotland, with those older than 60 years of age making up the highest proportion in this group. Between August 2020 and March 2021, the majority of the cases were still seen in adults older than 40 years of age. However, those older than 60 years of age began to make up a decreasing proportion of this group, and the majority of cases began to be observed in 40-59 year olds. Since April 2021, over 60% of all confirmed COVID-19 cases in Scotland are younger than 40 years of age. In July 2021, 42.5% of all confirmed cases were 20-39 year olds. Those younger than 20 years of age contributed to 25.2% of total cases. These differences are significantly due to the success of the roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccination programme.

Between March 2020 and 18 July 2021, 43,516 (4.6%) children and young people between the ages of 2 to 17 years have tested positive for COVID-19 in Scotland. During the recent third wave, positive COVID-19 cases increased among  children and young people aged 2-18 years (not including 18 years), peaking at a weekly total of 4,378 cases in the week ending 4 July. The most recent data published by Public Health Scotland, which covers cases identified up until the week ending 1 August, identified a weekly total of 1,848 cases in these age groups. The majority (56%) of these cases were seen in children aged between 12 and 18 years. Throughout the pandemic in Scotland, the lowest rates of confirmed COVID-19 cases among children and young people have been observed in younger children under 5 years of age.

Most recent data from the ONS Infection Survey estimate that 1 in 110  (95% credible interval: 1 in 140 to 1 in 85) people in Scotland had tested positive for COVID-19 in the week ending 24 July 2021. This represents a decrease from previous weeks. 

The Delta variant of concern (VOC) replaced the Alpha VOC as the most common variant in Scotland in May 2021. The latest Public Health England Surveillance of Variants of Concern or Under Investigation indicates that around 253,049 confirmed or probable cases of the Delta variant have occurred in the UK, 32,708 in Scotland.

The Delta variant is more transmissible than the previously dominant variants (about 60% more transmissible than the Alpha VOC) and is also associated with an increased risk of hospitalisation compared with the Alpha VOC, Public Health England estimates the secondary attack rates for the Delta variant to be 11.0% (95% CI 10.9% to 11.1%) among household contacts of cases that have not travelled or unknown. The secondary attack rate among non-household contacts of cases that have not travelled or unknown was 5.8% (5.6% to 5.9%).

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