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Background Children and young people (CYP) were less affected than adults in the first wave of SARS-CoV-2 in the UK. We test the hypothesis that clinical characteristics of hospitalized CYP with SARS-CoV-2 in the UK second wave would differ from the first due to the combined impact of the alpha variant, school reopening and relaxation of shielding. Methods Patients <19 years hospitalised in the UK with clinician-reported SARS-CoV-2 were enrolled in a prospective multicentre observational cohort study between 17th January 2020 and 31st January 2021. Minimum follow up time was two weeks. Clinical characteristics were compared between the first (W1) and second wave (W2) of infections. Findings 2044 CYP aged <19 years were reported from 187 hospitals. 427/2044 (20.6%) had asymptomatic/incidental SARS-CoV-2 infection and were excluded from main analysis. 16.0% (248/1548) of symptomatic CYP were admitted to critical care and 0.8% (12/1504) died. 5.6% (91/1617) of symptomatic CYP had Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C). Patients in W2 were significantly older (median age 6.5 years, IQR 0.3-14.9) than W1 (4.0 (0.4-13.6, p 0.015). Fever was more common in W1, otherwise presenting symptoms and comorbidities were similar across waves. After excluding CYP with MIS-C, patients in W2 had lower PEWS at presentation, lower antibiotic use and less respiratory and cardiovascular support compared to W1. There was no change in the proportion of CYP admitted to critical care between W1 and W2. 58.0% (938/1617) of symptomatic CYP had no reported comorbidity. Patients without co-morbidities were younger (42.4%, 398/938, <1 year old), had lower Paediatric Early Warning Scores (PEWS) at presentation, shorter length of hospital stay and received less respiratory support. MIS-C was responsible for a large proportion of critical care admissions, invasive and non-invasive ventilatory support, inotrope and intravenous corticosteroid use in CYP without comorbidities. Interpretation Severe disease in CYP admitted with symptomatic SARS-CoV-2 in the UK remains rare. One in five CYP in this cohort had asymptomatic/incidental SARS-CoV-2 infection. We found no evidence of increased disease severity in W2 compared with W1. Funding Short form: National Institute for Health Research, UK Medical Research Council, Wellcome Trust, Department for International Development and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

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