Children have been relatively spared from the effect of clinical coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The newly described inflammatory syndrome is rare in terms of the total population of children, and severe acute forms of COVID-19 are even rarer in children and young people. Despite this, both experts and the public have struggled to come to terms with the fact that severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is also different from all other known respiratory viral infections: there is significant uncertainty regarding children and young people’s ability to catch, transmit, and spread the virus. With no immediate vaccine or cure available, the only effective public health response has been widespread lockdown, including school closures now approaching more than half of the calendar year at considerable detriment to the long-term education and mental health of an entire generation. With the start of the academic year in northern hemisphere countries, there is an urgent need to understand children’s role in transmitting SARS-CoV-2.