‘Deeply irresponsible’: SNP ‘stoking fears’ over number of child Covid cases | Politics | News

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The SNP Health Secretary and senior colleague John Swinney were accused of “deeply irresponsible” scaremongering for suggesting mutant strains could be more harmful to children. Paediatricians intervened to reassure parents after Deputy First Minister Mr Swinney said that the government was investigating whether “something in the new variants” made them more dangerous to youngsters.

Mr Yousaf had claimed visiting soft play “could lead to the hospitalisation of children”.

Mr Yousaf also claimed that 10 children aged up to nine were on wards in Scotland last week “because of Covid” and Mr Swinney said the numbers of young people admitted to wards was “on the high side”.

However, the warnings baffled senior clinicians who said there was no evidence to back up the claims that children faced a heightened risk.

“We’re not seeing any evidence of an increase in paediatric admissions with Covid,” Dr Steve Turner, a registrar at the Royal College of Pediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) and consultant paediatrician at Royal Aberdeen Children’s Hospital, said.

“A very small number of admissions who test positive for Covid is what we’d expect. At the moment the situation in the UK is stable. The number of children in hospital with Covid remains very low. Children’s wards are not seeing a rise in cases with Covid. Parents shouldn’t worry.”

The comments from SNP ministers came after they faced a backlash for delaying the easing of lockdown for nearly 3 million Scots, despite three quarters of over-50s in the areas held back already being fully vaccinated and intensive care wards being almost empty of Covid patients.

One soft play business owner in Midlothian described the rules as “moronic” because he had been prevented from opening up but parents could travel, completely within the rules, to a competitor in a neighbouring council six miles away, which could open because it was in Level 1.

Quizzed about the situation yesterday morning, deputy First Minister John Swinney appeared to double down on the claims and raised the question of whether new Covid variants could be more harmful to children.

But a Scottish Government statement on Thursday night said: “Our current understanding is that the variants currently in circulation in Scotland do not disproportionately affect children.”

And Mr Yousaf Tweeted: “My main message was to urge caution, not to cause any undue alarm, I regret if that was the case.”

But Scottish Tory health spokeswoman Annie Wells said SNP ministers must avoid “stoking fears”.

She added: “It is deeply irresponsible of the Deputy First Minister to repeat the claims from the Health Secretary without any concrete evidence to back them up.

“These unfounded remarks will clearly have worried many parents across Scotland without any basis for doing so.”

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