A possible date for UK schools opening is June 1st.
There is, however, a general uneasiness among parents, teachers and trade unions. Commentators argue the main stumbling block is not knowing if children infect teachers.
In this atmosphere of controversy I thought you might be interested in a study from New South Wales, Australia.
The study throws light on the vexed question of re-opening schools: it found no evidence of children infecting their teachers.
The study’s aim was to examine the transmission of Covid in 15 schools and child care centres.
The report by the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance (NCIRS) investigated all Covid-19 cases in NSW schools from March 5 – April 3, 2020.
Nine children and nine staff from 15 schools were confirmed cases and all had the opportunity to infect others in their schools. Of those initial 18 cases, contact tracing identified 735 children and 128 staff who might have contracted Covid.
No teacher contracted the virus from any of the initial school children. One child from a primary school and one child from a high school may have contracted Covid from the initial cases in school.
The strategy of closing schools is used routinely to control influenza pandemics because we know children are likely to spread the infection.
However, Covid-19 is a less common, mild infection in children. It’s been suggested children are also less likely to spread the virus but we don’t know how common it is for Covid to transmit among school children or school staff.
The meticulous tracing of contacts and isolating them was key to validating the study.
Once the contacts were identified, they had to isolate themselves at home for 14 days, watch for any symptoms and if they became unwell, go to the doctor or a fever clinic to test for Covid-19.
NSW Health and NCIRS followed up 863 contacts of Covid-19 cases in the 10 high schools and five primary schools. Of the 863 only two children were found to have Covid following close contact with a school case. No teacher contracted Covid.
The report concludes: “Our investigation found no evidence of children infecting teachers.
The findings from this detailed investigation are preliminary. They do, however, suggest that spread of Covid-19 within NSW schools has been very limited.
“In contrast to influenza, data from both virus and antibody testing suggest that children aren’t the primary drivers of Covid-19 spread in schools or in the community.”
When Denmark opened their schools a few weeks ago the R value – the average number of people that will contract coronavirus from an infected person – continued to go down.