coronavirus, children
© Getty Images / Coscaron
The emergence of a new illness affecting children has been seized upon by the media in an attempt to stir up yet more fear of coronavirus. Yet the truth is that there's no evidence of a link between it and Covid-19.

The mainstream media has kicked into overdrive its coverage on children suffering from coronavirus, or an illness they claim is linked to it. Obviously, there are few things worse, if any, on this earth than a sick child. Mercifully, however, Covid-19 seems to be an affliction that doesn't affect youngsters very badly.

According to virtually every study conducted into the illness, children appear to be the least likely group to catch, transmit, suffer badly or die from this new disease currently upending the global order. Those overwhelmingly likely to be killed from it are the elderly, the already unwell and the obese, and whilst their plight has obviously been covered in the media, the amount that it affects children has been hugely disproportionate.

There might be, of course, one reason for this that would remain the case regardless of a pandemic, and that is the unfortunate reality that sick children do sell papers (something that the financially-straitened MSM is desperate to keep doing). Their tragic plights tug on the heartstrings of the public as recent high-profile cases, such as, in the UK, those of Charlie Gard, Alfie Evans and Tafida Raqeeb, have shown.

The nation takes them to their hearts in a way they would never do an adult in the same position, completely understandably. It is also a fact that virtually all parents are far more concerned for the lives of their children than they are of their own; therefore news of a disease that affects children is often of more concern than one afflicting mainly adults.

But it seems like there is something more behind the recent spate of stories about children suffering from Covid-19 or an allegedly related illness, other than simply concern, clicks and sales. It almost feels like the stories appear to be being used to justify the lockdown measures, particularly the continued closure of schools.

There has been a lot of coverage of a new "inflammatory disease" being found in young children. The illness has been described as similar to Kawasaki disease, which causes a red rash to appear on the skin, swollen glands and red eyes, amongst other illnesses. This disease has been linked to the spread of coronavirus, firstly by a report from the UK, and has received a great deal of coverage worldwide, with similar cases picked up in the US, France, Italy, Spain and Switzerland.

However, the original cases in the UK numbered just 12 and none of the children tested were actually positive for Covid-19 at the time, but tested positive for the antibodies, indicating they had had it earlier, but remained symptomless.

This hasn't stopped the mainstream media seizing on them, with pieces appearing across the world in numerous major publications from the Mirror in the UK to the NY Times in the US.

A NYT story this week on a 14-year-old was particularly emotional, with the headline screaming 'Straight-Up Fire' in His Veins: Teen Battles New Covid Syndrome", adding, "Jack McMorrow, 14, awoke in agony, with heart failure. His case may help doctors understand a frightening new affliction in children linked to the coronavirus."

Except, wait... there is no proven link. The same day that the NYT article appeared, the WHO's chief scientist, Soumya Swaminathan, appeared on a BBC news show to say:

"Very recently there have been some reports of children getting admitted with a strange syndrome, something that looks like sepsis, something that looks like a disease called Kawasaki disease, which causes inflammation in the blood vessels.

"Now, it's not very clear what the links are between Covid-19 and this syndrome. There are some children who tested positive for the virus and some who haven't.

"The WHO has discussed this with a group of international paediatricians about how to approach this, and the need to collect more data. We put out a note two days ago, which requests doctors to provide information in a standardised format so that we can quickly learn as much as possible about the syndrome.

"But again to re-emphasise the risks to children are extremely low with this infection, and there have not been many cases."

But none of that seems to have stopped the MSM ramping it up.

One can't help but wonder whether the prevalence given to these stories in the MSM is more narrative-driven than public interest-driven. Given that the press in most countries has, for the most part, erred more on the side of alarmism rather than caution when it comes to Covid-19, could the undue focus being given to this extremely rare ailment be an attempt to justify the hysteria they have driven with their sensationalised coverage of the pandemic?

This coverage has moved beyond the usual media scaremongering and now appears to have a rather clear political motive: "justify the lockdown".

Trust in journalists, particularly in Britain, is at appallingly low levels, and numerous polls show that trust, which has never been high, plummeting even further since they began their wall-to-wall alarmist coverage of the pandemic. Not that most of them have bothered to report that (you'll have to read a long way down to find the news here)

In the same way that they have devoted an inordinate amount of column inches to this new condition, they have desperately tried to paint Sweden's approach (which has been far less severe and not obviously that less effective than most other country's) as a failure.

This all seems to be a pretty blatant effort to prove that they have been justified in their coverage in a desperate attempt to cling on to ever decreasing relevance. They don't want to be held responsible for their part in crashing the global economy over an illness with a more than 99% survival rate.

"Think of the children" has been a go to call to arms for as long as anyone can remember and has been used to gin up support for campaigns against everything from video games to illnesses. "Think of the facts" might be more appropriate in this case.
Guy Birchall, British journalist covering current affairs, politics and free speech issues. Recently published in The Sun and Spiked Online. Follow him on Twitter @guybirchall