Most children who were diagnosed with the virus “experienced mild or no symptoms”, including those who caught COVID-19 in an educational setting.
The report focuses exclusively on cases in NSW, using data from the University of Sydney, NSW Health and the NSW Department of Education.
“The findings of the report are consistent with recent studies overseas showing that the Delta variant is more transmissible and resulting in a greater number of COVID-19 cases among children and young people,” Professor Kristine Macartney, NCIRS Director and Professor at the University of Sydney, said.
“The higher transmission in schools and ECECs, and risk across the wider community, has made stay-at-home learning necessary for most children during the current epidemic period, while we work to achieve higher levels of vaccination rates among school and early childhood staff, and the adult population more generally.”
In most education settings, the highest rate of transmission was between adult staff members than from staff members to children.
Staff and children who caught COVID-19 at school or in an educational setting often passed it on to their household members.
There were 181 household tertiary cases following exposure to the 106 secondary cases from the school or ECEC service. The overall transmission rate among household contacts was 70.7 per cent.
In NSW’s daily coronavirus press conference, infectious diseases specialist Professor Kristine McCartney said transmission between children – while possible – remained very low.
“What we saw was that the highest rate of spread was actually amongst up vaccinated adult staff and particularly unvaccinated adult staff at the time of the report in childcare centres,” Professor McCartney said.
“The spread of virus also occurred from adults to children but the spread between children themselves was very low.”
The report is informing the work of the health and education departments in determining a safe return to classrooms.
“As a paediatrician, and a parent, I know how important education is and particularly face-to-face learning for children’s wellbeing, development and mental health,” Professor McCartney said.
“There is light at the end of the tunnel.”
Dr Archana Koirala, a paediatric infectious disease specialist and Clinical Associate Lecturer at the University of Sydney, said the report is a roadmap for returning to full face-to-face learning.
“These results should give confidence to families, schools and the community that we have robust evidence on how the Delta variant behaves in children and educational settings,” Dr Koirala said.
“This evidence is being used to design strategies for returning to face-to-face learning safely as we learn to live with COVID-19.”