KIDS are just as likely as adults to contract coronavirus, the most accurate study of the crisis in England suggests.
The findings will intensify the row between teaching unions and the government, who want to bring back schools gradually for primary pupils and Year 10s and Year 12s from June 1.
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Unions are opposed to the plan and have warned classes may not resume until September.
They have asked the government to urgently publish the scientific evidence behind the decision to reopen England's schools to more pupils from June 1.
A survey for the Office for National Statistics of 10,705 people found "no evidence" of differences between age groups in those who tested positive.
Simon Clarke, associate professor in cellular microbiology of the University of Reading, who was not part of the ONS project, said: "We have a horrible choice ahead of us with reopening schools.
"Back when we first started learning about this virus, we knew from China that children did not seem to be so affected. That leads to two questions. The first is whether they get the virus. And now we know that yes, they do. The second is whether they transmit it. We don't know the answer to that."
Last month a study by the Royal College of Paediatricians and Child Health, found children "do not play a significant role" in spreading the deadly virus.
They said the evidence "consistently demonstrates reduced infection and infectivity of children in the transmission chain".
And there has not been a single case of a child under 10 passing on coronavirus in contact tracing carried out by the World Health Organisation.
However there are reports some kids suffer a rare inflammatory syndrome weeks after being infected with Covid-19.
In a very small number of children it can cause serious complications, with some needing intensive care.
Up to 100 children in the UK have been affected and studies suggest the same reaction is being seen in kids elsewhere in Europe.
It is likely to be caused by a delayed immune response to the virus which looks like Kawasaki disease.
Council leaders have said schools should be allowed to make their owns decisions about reopening – especially in areas where there is a higher proportion of black, Asian and minority ethnic residents.
That comes after analysis by the Office for National Statistics suggested black men and women are more than four times more likely to die from coronavirus than white people.
The government has faced increasing pressure from union leaders and MPs to release the science behind its plans to get kids back in schools.
Osama Rahman, chief scientific adviser at the Department for Education, said there was a "low degree of confidence" in evidence suggesting children transmit Covid-19 less than adults.
Former Labour education secretary Lord Blunkett said he was "surprised" by union leaders' attitude towards reopening schools.
He said: "I am being deeply critical of the attitude. It's about how can we work together to make it work as safely as possible. Anyone who works against that in my view is working against the interests of children."
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said: "When you have medical and scientific advice that is saying it's the right time to start bringing schools back in a phased and controlled manner, it seems only the right thing to do and the only responsible thing to do."
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