Readers will recall that on January 1st BBC Radio 5 Live broadcast an interview with Laura Duffel, the matron at King’s College Hospital, about the surge of Covid patients that had been admitted over the Christmas period.
Among other things, the matron said:
We have children who are coming in. It was minimally affecting children in the first wave. We have a whole ward of children here and I know that some of my colleagues are in the same position where they have whole wards of children with Covid…
We immediately smelt a rat. Children are more vulnerable to seasonal influenza than they are to Covid, so how could this be true? I asked the Senior Doctor to investigate and, sure enough, it looked very unlikely to be true. He wrote a piece for us entitled: “Are there wards full of children in English hospitals?“
On December 29th there were 474 Covid inpatients at Kings.
433 patients were in adult beds. A further 41 were in ICU beds (total 474)
If there had been any children with Covid in the hospital on December 29th, one would expect the total number of reported Covid patients to be greater than 474 to reflect the balance of patients in paediatric beds. So, if we assume the figures are accurate, there were no children suffering from acute Covid in Kings on December 29th.
Of course, it was possible that a “whole ward” of children suffering from COVID-19 were admitted between December 29th and January 1st, when the matron was interviewed, but, as the Senior Doctor pointed out, that was vanishingly unlikely.
For comparison, the 389-bed Great Ormond Street Hospital, London’s premier paediatric hospital, had six Covid inpatients on December 19th with one in a mechanically ventilated bed. The highest number of patients in GOSH was 11 reported on December 23rd.
Birmingham Women and Children’s Hospital reported 11 Covid inpatients on December 29th – it’s unclear how many of these patients were children.
Alder Hey paediatric Hospital in Liverpool had zero Covid inpatients.
I have been unable to find any other commentary or official data either from the UK or elsewhere in Europe or the US suggesting that hospitals have seen a dramatic upsurge in acute paediatric admissions with Covid-related symptoms. Nor have I heard this from other hospitals on the medical grapevine.
To put the known Covid risk to children into context, the ONS death statistics show that in the whole of 2020, there were 19 deaths in patients under 19 years old where COVID was mentioned on the death certificate out of 76,669 total Covid deaths (0.025%). Of these patients, 11 were aged 15-19 (essentially young adults). There have been eight deaths of children aged between 0 and 14 years – 0.01% of the total.
A listener complained to the BBC – possibly inspired by the Senior Doctor’s post – and the BBC has upheld the complaint. You can read the BBC’s decision here.
The Senior Doctor wasn’t the only person to question the veracity of the matron’s statement. The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health issued a statement the following day which said: “As of now we are not seeing significant pressure from COVID-19 in paediatrics across the UK. As cases in the community rise there will be a small increase in the number of children we see with COVID-19, but the overwhelming majority of children and young people have no symptoms or very mild illness only.”
Nonetheless, the claim that the B117 variant was more dangerous to children and the age profile of patients being admitted to hospital with COVID-19 was much lower in the second wave than the first was widely repeated in the British media and the Senior Doctor had to debunk this myth again and again on Lockdown Sceptics.
Lockdown Sceptics – working tirelessly to ‘fact check’ the torrent of bullshit about the virus being pumped out daily by the mainstream media.