The signs are that children may not spread it as much as adults, Dr Rosalind Eggo, who is on committees that advise the British government on its infectious disease response, told members of parliament’s upper house.

“We think that children are less likely to get it so far but it is not certain, we are very certain that children are less likely to have severe outcomes and there are hints that children are less infectious but it is not certain,” said Eggo of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.

John Edmunds, a member of Britain’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), told the House of Lords’ science committee that it was striking how children did not seem to play much of a role in spreading the novel coronavirus.

“It is unusual that children don’t seem to play much of a role in transmission because for most respiratory viruses and bacteria they play a central role, but in this they don’t seem to,” said Edmunds, a professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.