Official data shows that covid infections in children were declining even before half-term began. This is a sign of high immunity, which may have helped to stop the virus from spreading. 

Statistics from the Department of Health show that cases among 5- to 19-year olds in England peaked the Tuesday before schools closed for the week and have been dropping ever since.

Experts believed the drop was real, but warned that testing rates for children may have dropped slightly in the days leading up to the break. They said that although they don’t know the exact cause, they believe the drop will continue.  

It comes after one Government’s scientific advisors suggested that Britain’s Covid cases may be already falling due to immunity built up by children following the back school wave.

Professor John Edmunds, an epidemiologist, who sits on SAGE said that the recent spike in infections was caused by ‘huge amounts of cases’ among children. According to health officials, the virus was present in as many as 1 in 12 children in England last week.

Professor Edmunds stated that the increase in infections will eventually lead to a high level of immunity in children, which will cause cases to plateau and then fall. He said that it could be that we are achieving this now.

Daily Covid infections in Britain reached a three month high last week, surpassing the 50,000 barrier. It prompted medical unions, some scientists and Labour to call for Plan B — mandatory face masks, work from home guidance and vaccine passports — to be implemented immediately in a bid to control infections.

However, cases have fallen for three consecutive days. SAGE’s optimistic modelling suggests that infections may drop to 5,000 in the coming months, even if No10 is forced to comply with demands or resorts to other virus-controlling methods.

Scientists suggested that cases would be reduced if there were a combination vaccine boosters, natural immunity in children, and a decrease of classroom mixing during the October halfterm break. 

The graph above shows Covid infection rates for 100,000 people in England, broken down by age group. It is possible that cases in 5- to 19-year olds have reached a peak and are now on the decline. However, they were still rising in all age groups.

The above graph shows the number of lateral flow tests carried out daily. It reveals that over the two weeks before half term the number completed remained similar, at around 550,000 a day

The graph below shows the daily number of lateral flow testing. It shows that the number of lateral flow tests performed daily was approximately 550,000 per day in the two weeks prior to half term. 

Officials do not collect data on antibody levels among under-16s. But for those aged 16 to 24-years-old they found 95.6 per cent had antibodies against the virus (top left, green line) despite only 81.4 per cent (top left, blue line) having been vaccinated. Vaccines are now available for 12 to 15-year-olds, but it is likely many already have immunity from past infection

Officials don’t collect data about antibody levels in children under 16. However, 95.6 percent of those aged 16-24 years old had antibodies against the virus (top right, green line), despite only 81.4 percent (top left blue line) having been vaccinated. Although vaccines are now available to 12-15-year-olds, many may already be immune from past infections.

Department of Health data indicates that Covid cases have peaked among schoolchildren, which is a positive indicator that they could soon fall in the other age groups to whom they are transmitting the virus.

It publishes data on infection rates for age groups by specimen date. Positive tests are ordered by the date of their taken rather than the date that the diagnosis was first published. 

Cases among 10 to 14-year-olds — the age group with the highest infection rate — may have peaked on October 19 at 1,925.2 positive tests per 100,000 people. 

Why has the number of Covid infections in schoolchildren risen so much? 

According to data from the Department of Health, Covid infections in schoolchildren peaked before half-term began.

Scientists suggest that this could be due to rising immunity in the elderly or a decrease in Covid testing.

Antibody levels 

SAGE scientists suggested that rising antibody levels in children could have contributed to the decline in cases. 

Children were not given a vaccine before returning to school. This meant that only those who had been infected previously had protection.

However, after a massive back-to-school wave, the number of children who have Covid-fighting antibody has risen. This means that more children are protected against the virus.

To provide more protection, children between the ages of 12 and 15 received one dose of the Covid vaccine starting September 20.

But the uptake of vaccinations has been slow, and the drive to immunize has been slow. 

According to the UK Health Security Agency, 12 percent of children aged 12-15 years have been vaccinated.

Covid testing

Scientists also suggested that the drop in Covid testing may be responsible for the reported fall in infections in schoolchildren.

Children must swab their skin twice per week for the virus using lateral flow testing and report the results to Test and Trace.

Some believe that the number of tests performed may have fallen ahead of the holidays because people were more comfortable taking them.

According to the Department of Health, however, similar lateral flow tests were done in the weeks preceding half-term. This averaged out at 550,000 per day.

The majority of English schools closed for the holidays on Monday.

But there is a small group — such as schools in Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire — which broke up the previous Monday for two weeks. This could have affected the data. 

The rate for 15- to 19-year olds and five- to nine-year-olds also reached a peak on October 19, at 861.3 and 7760.7, respectively. This rate dropped to 843.4, 746.2 and respectively two days later.  

Although the figures were unchanged from the previous week, they are increasing week-on week in another sign that cases in older age groups have already reached their peak.

The vast majority of schools were closed for half-term on Monday.

But a small number — including those in Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire among other areas — started the holiday the Monday before for a two-week break. Experts cautioned that this may have contributed to the increase in infection rates. 

MailOnline was told by Professor Hunter: “There is a sign the cases may be falling.” The seven-day running average shows that they are still rising, but much slower than they were just a few days ago.

“This is about a week before half-term started, so there might have been some reduction in testing for children who were visiting the school holiday period. 

“So, you need to be cautious about this, but the basic figures show that case numbers have started declining in all children below 20.”

The testing data does not show an age breakdown, but the numbers suggest that there has been no significant drop in the number lateral flow tests performed in the last two weeks. Around 550,000 tests were completed each day. Secondary school children in England are asked twice per week to test for the virus. 

Professor Hunter was asked if the drop would be sustained. He replied, “I don’t know for sure, but I would think that it probably will.” 

[But]I wouldn’t bet the house on it if it can be sustained for how long and how deeply it will fall.

He suggested that these figures could be further evidence that the virus has become endemic in Britain. Britain is no longer in a vulnerable state where cases can explode at any time. Instead, he suggested that the virus will become more common as immunity decreases.

The levels of covid antibodies are not known for under-16s. However, 95.6 percent of 16- to 24-year-olds are expected to have antibodies, despite only 81.4 percent having received at least one dose. 

Professor Hunter stated that ‘So, out of the 18.6% of individuals who have not received the vaccine, 76% have also developed antibodies, presumably from an illness.

“Given our knowledge about the disappearance antibodies with time, this means that a large number of unvaccinated individuals in this age range have already been infected and will have similar protection than if they were immunized.”

It is probable that immunity levels are higher among under-16s, even though vaccine was only available to 12-15-year olds following September 20. 

Many people have already been infected with the virus. The infection rates in this age group are at an all-time high, even though schools have been closed for a while. 

Professor Edmunds stated that modellers agreed that cases would either plateau or begin to fall in the coming weeks.

He stated that the epidemic of the past few months was driven by a large number of cases in children. I mean a lot of children. That will eventually lead to high levels immunity in children, and it may be that this is what we are achieving now.

“Achieving” I think is the wrong word. However, it could be that we’re achieving high levels immunity in children because of these very high rates of infections we’ve had. This may eventually level off.

Professor Edmunds cautioned that models presented to ministers could also suggest that cases could rise in spring due to waning immunity, and a return of normality.

He said booster doses — currently given to over-50s, healthcare workers and those with underlying conditions — should be dished out as fast as possible to address waning immunity and rising infections.

Professor Edmunds stated that they should be given to younger people “in time”. 

The pandemic triggered an increase in infections among schoolchildren, which reached its peak in September after schools returned from summer vacations.

Some local authorities and head teachers have implemented restrictions in their schools in a bid to stop cases spiralling — such as requiring face masks in corridors and siblings of infected pupils to self-isolate.

England had a July change in its Covid restrictions. Schools were only subject to twice-weekly testing and ten-day isolation of PCR-positive students.

There have been calls in the last week for the UK to implement its Plan B winter plan — which ministers said would only be brought if if the NHS faces unsustainable pressure.

The Government is currently focusing on the introduction of booster jabs for children 12-15 years old in an effort to curb rising cases. It will not switch to further curbs — face masks and work from home — unless the NHS comes under ‘unsustainable’ pressure.

The British Medical Association is a union of doctors and accused the Government of being “wilfully negligent” for not bringing back Covid restraints.

Labour leader Sir Keir starmer said Monday he was in favor of Plan B measures because it was “common sense” and protects “yourself and everyone else”.

Ministers have taken comfort from the unusually optimistic SAGE modeling, which predicted that the epidemic would shrink or stay well below previous waves this winter, even without the Government’s Plan B of vaccine passports, face masks, and work from home.