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Listen: Science experts answer young people’s coronavirus questions


A screenshot of the meeting between young people from across the UK and experts from SAGE.

We all hear a lot about coronavirus and the science behind it in the news, but it’s not always explained in a way that’s easy to understand.

Because of this, children and young people – like everyone else – have a lot of questions about the virus, and it isn’t always easy to find the answers.

So the Children’s Commissioner’s offices of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales organised an event where young people could ask questions to scientists from the UK’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE).

Our Young Advisers Ailidh and Coll were two of 12 young people taking part, and we’ve summarised their questions and the scientists’ answers to them below.

Listen to the full event

You can listen to the full event on the Children’s Commissioner for England’s Soundcloud page.

Questions from Scotland

Ailidh’s question (44:14 in)

What are the scientific reasons behind believing that young children pose a low risk of transmitting the virus to their peers than older children and does social distancing reduce that risk?

The scientists’ answer

We believe this after looking at several different studies. These include contact studies― where someone who we know had the virus names everyone they’ve recently been in contact with, then all these people are tested for coronavirus themselves.

Most – but not all – of these studies suggest people under 10-12 are less likely to catch the virus, while teenagers have about the same risk of catching it that adults do.

Coll’s question (1:01:15 in)

When did evidence first begin to emerge about the risks of carriers transmitting who weren’t showing symptoms and how has that understanding developed over time? 

Were there particular circumstances identified where there may be more likely to be carriers transmitting without having symptoms?

The scientists’ answer

We still need to know more about asymptomatic transmission, and there are still different views about how important it is― but we think it’s a part of why the virus has been able to spread as much as it has. There are still different estimates among scientists of how many people are asymptomatic.

But it’s a bigger issue for children and young people, who are more likely to have the virus without ever showing symptoms. It makes it harder to know what transmission rates are for younger people, and harder to know how likely younger people are to get it.

Full list of questions

Erin, Wales (4:29 in)

When a new virus like Covid-19 emerges, what are the stages in the development of a vaccine― could explain a bit about the process? How it gets to human trials, things like that.

Aidan, England (9:25 in)

What is the scientific evidence behind wearing a face mask?

Joseph, Northern Ireland (16:12 in)

Does Covid-19 live on plants and pets, and if so for how long?

Isla, England (20:13 in)

Why do we need bubbles to keep children and families safe? Because it’s hard that children can’t hug their grandparents.

Saffie, England (23:43 in)

What scientific advice do you give to students who use public transport or school buses to get to school?

Milly, England (29:24 in)

Me and my grandparents are terrified of the swab test.  Is there any other test that’s easier for kids to use, and what about children with special educational needs and disability (SEND)?

Matt, Northern Ireland (35:18 in)

Has the virus mutated or changed since the initial outbreak, and why hasn’t it affected children so far?

Ellie, Northern Ireland (38:11 in)

Is it safe to wear uniform that can’t be washed such as ties and blazers and is there any risk from touching shared objects like books, paper and computers?

Ailidh, Scotland (44:14 in)

What are the scientific reasons behind believing that young children pose a low risk of transmitting the virus to their peers than older children, and does social distancing reduce that risk?

Evey, Wales (50:26 in)

We hear a lot about people suffering with the Coronavirus and how it causes breathing problems, but there’s never really been any clear information about the effect it has. So my question is: How does Coronavirus affect the body?

Ibby, Wales (55:51 in)

We know that Black Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) people are infected badly by Covid-19. What can BAME young people do to remain safe and have their health not impacted by COVID-19?

Coll, Scotland (1:01:15 in)

When did evidence first begin to emerge about the risks of carriers transmitting who weren’t showing symptoms and how has that understanding developed over time? 

Were there particular circumstances identified where there may be more likely to be carriers transmitting without having symptoms?

Short questions

What is the ‘r’ rate?

What are the scientific risks of staying inside too much?

What can be done to help deaf people, as masks make it more difficult to communicate?

What is the scientific advice on the importance of exercise during the pandemic?

What are the chances of a second wave hitting the UK?


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