Sick child with a thermometer

Most children with COVID-19 in Australia don’t require hospital treatment, according to a new study, which may help ease the demand on emergency departments this winter.

The research, led by Murdoch Children’s Research Institute and published in The Medical Journal of Australia, found more than half of children with COVID-19 who visited an emergency department or were admitted to hospital in the first two years of the pandemic did not require medical intervention.

The study involved 1193 COVID-19 positive patients under 18 years old who presented to 19 hospitals belonging to the Paediatric Research in Emergency Departments International Collaborative (PREDICT) network during 2020 and 2021.

Hospital medical interventions were not required for 67 per cent of emergency department visits with only 24 per cent admitted to hospital. A total of 65 per cent of patients were sent home, while 5 per cent were admitted to hospital-in-the-home care and the rest were observed for several hours before being discharged home.  

Murdoch Children’s Dr Laila Ibrahim said the low numbers needing hospital treatment was largely down to children and adolescents experiencing mild COVID symptoms.

“The majority of children in hospital had symptoms similar to other viral illnesses, who could have largely been treated as outpatients and 23 per cent were admitted only because of parental concerns around COVID,” she said.

“Our most important learning was that most children with COVID-19 do not need to attend emergency departments or be admitted to hospital. This reflects the low rates of severe illness experienced by young people and takes pressure off emergency department services.”

Murdoch Children’s Professor Franz Babl said given the still high number of COVID infections in children and the milder disease course of the Omicron strain, a focus on primary care for those with mild respiratory problems was needed to ensure that hospitals could concentrate on patients with more severe respiratory symptoms.

The findings come after a recent Murdoch Children’s led study also found COVID-positive children with moderate symptoms or pre-existing high-risk conditions could be treated effectively via a Hospital-in-the-Home (HITH) program. 

: Laila Ibrahim, Catherine Wilson, Doris Tham, Mark Corden, Shefali Jani, Michael Zhang, Amit Kochar, Ker Fern Tan, Shane George, Natalie T Phillips, Paul Buntine, Karen Robins-Browne, Vimuthi Chong, Thomas Georgeson, Anna Lithgow, Sarah Davidson, Sharon O’Brien, Viet Tran and Franz E Babl. ‘The characteristics of SARS-CoV-2- positive children in Australian hospitals: a PREDICT network study,’ The Medical Journal of Australia,’ DOI: 10.5694/mja2.51934

*The content of this communication is the sole responsibility of the Murdoch Children’s and does not reflect the views of the NHMRC.

Available for interview:

Dr Laila Ibrahim, Murdoch Children’s Clinician Scientist Fellow, Infection and Immunity

Professor Franz Babl, Murdoch Children’s, Group Leader, Emergency

Media Contact:

Kathleen Jessop
Murdoch Children’s Media and Communications Advisor                                                                             
Ph: +61 402 484 951


About Murdoch Children’s Research Institute

Murdoch Children's Research Institute is the largest child health research institute in Australia committed to making discoveries and developing treatments to improve child and adolescent health in Australia and around the world. They are pioneering new treatments, trialling better vaccines and improving ways of diagnosing and helping sick babies, children and adolescents. It is one of the only research institutes in Australia to offer genetic testing to find answers for families of children with previously undiagnosed conditions.


The study was supported by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) through a Centre of Research Excellence grant for Paediatric Emergency Medicine (1171228), which also supported Catherine Wilson, who co-ordinated the study and data collection across the PREDICT network. Franz Babl is supported by an NHMRC Practitioner Fellowship (1124468), which partially supported his role as a senior author and principal investigator for this study.