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Children and COVID-19

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Author: 
National Institute for Public Health and the Environment
Publication Date: 
1 Apr 2020
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Excerpted from introduction

UPDATED: 2 July 2020
PUBLISHED: April 2020

Worldwide, relatively few children have been reported with COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. Data from the Netherlands also confirms the current understanding: that children play a minor role in the spread of the novel coronavirus. The virus is mainly spread between adults and from adult family members to children. The spread of COVID-19 among children or from children to adults is less common.

Since children play a minor role in the spread of the virus, the 1.5 metre measure is less strict for young children:

  • Children up to and including 12 years of age do not have to keep 1.5 metres apart from each other and from adults. This also applies to childcare and primary education.
    Young people aged 13 until 18 years old (i.e. 17 years old and younger) do not have to stay 1.5 metres apart from each other. In secondary schools, this applies to all pupils, regardless of their age.
  • In secondary vocational education (MBO) and higher education, all students should stay 1.5 metres apart, regardless of their age
    Since adults play a greater role in the spread of the novel coronavirus, teachers need to stay 1.5 metres apart from others as often as possible.
  • Younger children with nasal colds symptoms are allowed to attend childcare and primary school
    Children aged 0 to 4 years old with cold symptoms (runny nose, nasal cold, sneezing and sore throat) are allowed to go to the childcare centre or host parent, as long as they do not have a fever. Similarly, children in group 1 or 2 of primary school with cold symptoms may go to school and to after-school childcare, as long as they do not have a fever.

This does not apply if:

  • Children have had contact with a patient who has the novel coronavirus.
  • Someone in the household of the child has a fever or difficulty breathing (see the symptoms of COVID-19).

In that case, the child has to stay home, and it is important for the child to be tested for COVID-19*.
Children who have a cough, shortness of breath or other symptoms that could indicate COVID-19 should stay home until the symptoms are gone. Children can be tested at the request of their parents. Contact your GP if your child has severe symptoms.

It is known that young children often have a persistent cold. However, the number of children infected with the novel coronavirus is low. In the first two weeks of June 2020, 3,500 children aged 0 to 6 years old who had symptoms were tested. 0.5% of these children tested positive. That percentage was higher in children who were tested in the same period because they had been in contact with a COVID-19 patient: 14.3%.

Preventing the virus from spreading in schools
To ensure that the spread of the novel coronavirus is kept to a minimum, it is important to follow the measures in schools:

  • Do you have mild symptoms, such as a nasal cold, runny nose, sneezing, sore throat, mild cough or elevated temperature (up to 38 degrees Celsius)? And/or have you suddenly lost your sense of smell or taste? Get tested* and stay home until you get the results of the test.
  • If you have a fever (higher than 38 degrees Celsius) and/or shortness of breath, everyone in the household must stay home.
  • Practice good hygiene (wash your hands often with soap and water, cough and sneeze into your elbow, use paper tissues to blow your nose and discard them after use).

    * Please note: small children who have a cold do not always need to be tested. Testing is necessary if the children are in contact with someone infected with the novel coronavirus, if they are part of an outbreak investigation, or if they have other symptoms that could indicate the novel coronavirus.

Researching the role of children in the spread of the virus
Because the virus is still new, we are conducting extensive research to find out more about it. For example, RIVM National Institute for Public Health and the Environment is researching the role of children in the spread of the virus. Read more below about what RIVM is doing, how we arrive at these conclusions, and what this means.

What is RIVM National Institute for Public Health and the Environment doing?

After the first national measures were put in place, a social discussion arose about whether or not to close schools. Although the role of children in the spreading of COVID-19 at that time seemed limited, there were many uncertainties. RIVM is conducting various studies on the role of children in the dissemination. RIVM:

  • studies in detail the reports of infected patients received from the Municipal Public Health Services (GGDs) in the Netherlands.
  • investigates, in collaboration with the Netherlands Institute for Health Services Research (NIVEL) testing stations, the registrations provided by general practitioners on patients with flu-like symptoms who are tested for COVID-19.
  • conducts research among Dutch COVID-19 patients and their family contacts. Although this research and other studies are still ongoing, there are preliminary results.
  • has taken blood samples from more than 2000 people to test for antibodies against COVID-19; this is the first phase of the so-called PIENTER corona study.
  • has reviewed relevant literature on children and COVID-19. These are studies that have been conducted in other countries.

What is RIVM National Institute for Public Health and the Environment doing? - April 29, 2020

After the first national measures were put in place, a social discussion arose about whether or not to close schools. Although the role of children in the spreading of COVID-19 at that time seemed limited, there were many uncertainties. RIVM is conducting various studies on the role of children in the dissemination. RIVM:

  • studies in detail the reports of infected patients received from the Municipal Public Health Services (GGDs) in the Netherlands.
  • investigates, in collaboration with the Netherlands Institute for Health Services Research (NIVEL) testing stations, the registrations provided by general practitioners on patients with flu-like symptoms who are tested for COVID-19.
  • conducts research among Dutch COVID-19 patients and their family contacts. Although this research and other studies are still ongoing, there are preliminary results.
  • has taken blood samples from more than 2000 people to test for antibodies against COVID-19; this is the first phase of the so-called PIENTER corona study.
  • has reviewed relevant literature on children and COVID-19. These are studies that have been conducted in other countries.
government document
Entered Date: 
29 Apr 2020
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