High corona incidence due to small number of children?

fact finder

Status: 03.12.2021 9:00 a.m.

A minister of education claims that the incidence in children appears so high because the group is so small. Her comments on the infection process in schools also sparked discussions.

By Patrick Gensing and Andrej Reisin, editorial team at ARD-faktenfinder

In the discussion about the safety of children during the corona pandemic, the Minister for Education and Day Care Centers in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Simone Oldenburg, caused a lot of discussion in the social networks with statements.

The left-wing politician, who is also deputy prime minister, wrote on Twitter that the numbers, meaning the incidences among younger people, “appear high because the number of children and adolescents is small overall”. The statement met with a lot of criticism.

Björn Schwendtker, NDR data expert, said: “The fact that the incidences of children are higher compared to other age groups because there are fewer children than adults, for example, is simply wrong therefore incidences are comparable between different groups. ”

A spokeswoman for the minister informed at the request of the ARD fact finder with: “The seven-day incidences are high, but the total number of children and adolescents is lower than that of adults.” However, this statement does not explain the minister’s wrong calculation.

Incidence significantly higher

The incidence in children and adolescents has been particularly high for weeks. In October it reached more than 500 cases within seven days in some districts – calculated for 100,000 people. The total incidence at the time was below 70. According to the RKI weekly report, the incidence climbed to 953 among five to nine year olds and to 1067 among ten to 14 year olds. The overall average is given as 479.

Tested more often but not vaccinated

The extent to which the incidence in school pupils is better recorded by the regular tests than in adults is a controversial topic. It stands to reason that the dark field due to the tests in schools is smaller than that of adults.

An evaluation of RKI data according to age groups through the Science Media Center comes to the conclusion, however, that the rate of positive tests among schoolchildren is very high. A high positive rate actually indicates that too little is being tested. In addition, the five to nine year olds and most of the ten to 14 year olds have not yet been vaccinated – which in turn should contribute to the fact that the incidence is significantly higher than among the predominantly vaccinated adults.

No place as safe as schools?

Oldenburg’s statements that no place is “as safe as schools” also sparked discussion. It “has been proven that the infection rate at home is four to six times higher than at school”.

However, the data situation in Germany has been extremely thin since the outbreak of the pandemic, and in the vast majority of cases it is unclear where people were infected. The RKI itself emphasized that the statistics on the infectious environment of outbreaks “should be interpreted with caution” and that the allocation is “not always clear”. In some outbreaks several situations played a role and it was “not always possible to define exactly where the transmission took place”. In some environments, for example in rail traffic, outbreaks are difficult to detect, so such areas could be “under-recorded”.

Sources of infection mostly unclear

The virologist Christian Drosten said in the NDR-Podcastthat for many people it is hardly possible to determine in retrospect where they were infected. However, one does remember a family celebration. Quite apart from that, most sources of infection could not be traced anyway.

This is also shown by current figures from the RKI: In calendar week 47 until November 28th could according to RKI just 11,106 of 398,679 new infections can be assigned to a specific outbreak. In other words, for around 2.8 percent of all infections, you currently know where people are infected.

At the request of the ARD fact finder said the spokesman for the minister that the statements “according to which schools are not drivers of the corona pandemic”, from the so-called Schugi MV project would be confirmed. This scientific project observes the infection process in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania.

According to this, data show that “in schools, an average of around five percent of classmates of infected children would test positive”. This value is much higher for household contacts. According to scientific studies by the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs (KMK), it is clear that the risk of infection in the home is many times higher than in schools, the spokesman continued. He did not explain which study results these statements specifically relate to.

KMK study: schools are part of the infection process

The role of schools in the infection process has been hotly debated for months. The Conference of Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs commissioned a study on this, which came to the conclusion that schools are definitely part of the infection process. This is what it says in the third one Interim report published in September: “Infections through infections of pupils and teachers are relevant both in school and in the household context and should be reduced.”

In addition, it also reads other studies concludedthat schools are part of the infection process. The head of the Robert Koch Institute, Lothar Wieler, reaffirmed this at the beginning of October when he said that the withdrawal of the mask requirement in schools “made no sense”. “Masks, tests and concepts are there. The numbers only go down where they are implemented.”

The interim report on behalf of the KMK also comes to the conclusion that protective measures such as mask requirements and air filters are clearly showing an effect to limit the spread of the virus. There is no claim that schools are generally safe places.

“Very rapid increase” in outbreaks

That RKI notes in its weekly report of December 2, states that the number of school breakouts reported “has increased again very rapidly since mid-October 2021”. Since then, the number of school breakouts has far exceeded the level of the second and third waves.

According to the RKI, the easier transferability of the delta variant and the expanded test activities probably play a role in the increased frequency of outbreaks, with infections – including asymptomatic ones – being detected at an early stage.


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