The Health Information and Quality Authority has said it appears that children are not substantially contributing to the spread of coronavirus, in their household, or in schools. 

The authority has published a summary of the latest research and evidence on immunity and the spread of Covid-19 by children.

It said that while evidence is limited, it appears that children are not significant contributors to the spread.

The review involves a limited number of studies, and figures show that in Ireland there have been over 380 cases of Covid-19 in those under the age of 14.

Two cases have been admitted to intensive care and there have been no deaths in this age group.

The data is from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre.

HIQA said that one study found that while there was a high transmission of Covid-19 in adults aged 25 years or older, transmission is lower in those under 14. 

HIQA's Deputy CEO and Director of Health Technology Assessment, Dr Máirín Ryan, said: "An Australian study that examined potential spread from 18 confirmed (nine students and nine staff) cases to over 800 close contacts in 15 different schools found that no teacher or staff member contracted Covid-19 from any of the initial school cases.

One child from a primary school and one child from a high school may have contracted Covid-19 from the initial cases at their schools."

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The authority also said its review found there is a lack of clear evidence as to whether long-term immunity is possible from the virus.

It said it is not yet certain if antibodies to the virus are transferred from mother to the child in the womb, via the placenta.

It said that while some individuals have tested positive after recovery from Covid-19, this is likely due to virus re-detection, rather than re-infection with a second virus.

HIQA also found that with other serious coronavirus infections, the antibody response is maintained for one to two years after initial infection, and then decreases.

 Dr Ryan urged that a "cautious approach" be taken as the research is based on seven studies.

She said that "children play a role in the transmission of the virus but there is no evidence to show that children that they transmit it at a higher rate than anyone else".

She said given that the virus is a "new virus" there is limited evidence available.

Speaking on RTÉ's News at One, Dr Ryan said that in relation to immunity after contracting Covid-19 "we see that people do mount an immune response, and produce neutralising anti-bodies for at least eight weeks after."

She said studies are currently under way to understand whether immunity last beyond eight weeks.

These are international studies, as "most of the studies that have been carried out have taken place in countries which have been affected by the pandemic like China and other countries in Asia, so has to be interpreted in that context."

In relation to antibody testing Dr Ryan said a lot of work is being carried out to try and validate the hundreds of tests that have come on the market since the discovery of Covid-19.

She said work is being coordinated by the World Health Organization and the European Commission to try and validate the accuracy of how they estimate results.

Even if tests have been validated at an international level they also need to be examined from a quality assurance point of view in relation to how they are going to be used here in Ireland, Dr Ryan said.

She said several rapid Covid-19 tests are being developed by the industry, which are going through the international validation process.

She said the WHO is still saying that the role for rapid test is only in research until the outcome of those studies is available.

HIQA has so far conducted two updates on the role of children in the spread of Covid-19, "and we may well be asked to look at that again as time goes on", Dr Ryan said.

"We are conducting a range of evidence reviews to inform the expert advisory group that advises the National Public Health Emergency Team, so we are scanning the literature in a daily basis."