Schools play limited role in spread of Covid-19, studies report

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A series of studies has cast doubt on the role of schools in the spread of the coronavirus as governments across Europe consider new restrictions to slow a second wave of infections.

Studies in Germany and Norway, as well as two journals focusing on education around the world, suggest that a renewal of widespread school closures would have a limited effect in tackling Sars-Cov-2, the virus that causes Covid-19.

The findings are expected to strengthen policymakers concerned that school closures could cause more students to fall behind and limit parents’ ability to return to work.

“Normal operations must continue for as long as possible,” German Minister for Families Franziska Giffey said last week, welcoming a study suggesting that “day care centers are not sources of infection, children are not are not sources of infection ”.

The research comes at a time of growing fatigue among school leaders struggling to cope with pressures caused by quarantining staff and students with infected and suspected cases. Official figures on Tuesday showed 46% of English high schools had at least one student in isolation due to potential contact with a coronavirus case in the classroom.

The German studies include an analysis released last week by the Institute for Labor Economics (ILE) in Bonn, which found that the number of new cases in the country did not increase when schools were reopened after the summer holidays.

Ingo Isphording, Marc Lipfert and Nico Pestel, the authors of the report, found that the number of newly confirmed cases has actually declined gradually in those German states that have reopened schools, compared to those that have not. “This result was certainly the opposite [to our expectations]Said Mr. Isphording.

Germany has seen a sharp rise in new infections in recent weeks, but an investigation by RND, a German media group of the education ministries of Germany’s 16 states, concluded that there was no no evidence that schools had become schools.

Research found that since the schools reopened, only 0.04% of students had been infected in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia – or 853 students out of around 2 million. Schleswig-Holstein and Bavaria also had a rate of 0.04 percent, while Berlin’s was slightly higher at 0.07 percent.

A Norwegian study found that most of the cases reported in schools were among infected pupils at home © Ina Fassbender / AFP / Getty

Researchers attributed the low levels of infection in the German schools studied to strict hygiene measures © Daniel Irunga / EPA-EFE / Shutterstock

The ILE researchers attributed the low levels of infection in the German schools surveyed to strict hygiene measures, including the wearing of masks, teaching in fixed small groups and the rapid screening and quarantine of classes where a student or teacher had tested positive.

The Norwegian National Institute of Public Health said that between June and October, an analysis of the source of the infections showed that most of the cases reported in its schools were in students infected by adults in their households rather than others at school.

An assessment of the research published this month on Covid-19 outbreaks in schools around the world by academics at the University of Edinburgh in the UK, which has not been peer reviewed, has stated that the quality of the evidence remained low but that infection rates in schools were generally low and lower. among students as staff.

The findings reflect two reviews of available evidence conducted by the World Health Organization and the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, which concluded that most children do not develop symptoms and that there is little evidence of transmission at school.

However, studies highlight the difficulty of identifying the precise transmission mechanisms of Sars-Cov-2.

Gwen Knight, assistant professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, which compiles a database of reports of ‘super-widespread’ epidemics around the world, said she had so far identified relatively few incidents in educational settings.

“Schools should be important as so many networks come together [there]- with children, parents and social life, ”she says. “But the signal doesn’t seem very strong. We struggle to find direct evidence of transmission in schools, but we don’t do enough testing.

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