COVID-19 outbreaks in schools in England in June - what are the findings?

  • Ismail SA, et al.
  • Public Health England
  • 23 Aug 2020

  • curated by Priscilla Lynch
  • UK Medical News
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COVID-19 infections and outbreaks were uncommon in educational settings during the first month after the easing of national lockdown in England, finds a new study by the Public Health England (PHE).

PHE initiated enhanced national surveillance following the reopening of educational settings during the summer mini-term on 1 June 2020. COVID-19-related situations in educational settings across England were reviewed daily and followed-up until 31 July 2020. SARS-CoV-2 infection and outbreak rates were calculated for staff and students attending early year settings, primary and secondary schools in June 2020.

Overall, SARS-CoV-2 infections and outbreaks were uncommon across all educational settings. Only 0.01 per cent of pre-schools and primary schools had an outbreak, all of which were successfully contained, and 70 children and 128 staff were affected. Over the same period, there were 25,470 cases recorded in England as a whole.

There were 67 single confirmed cases, four co-primary cases and 30 COVID-19 outbreaks in educational settings during June 2020, with a strong correlation between number of outbreaks and regional COVID-19 incidence (0.51 outbreaks for each SARS-CoV-2 infection per 100,000 in the community; P=.001).

Staff members had an increased risk of SARS-CoV-2 infections compared with students in any educational setting, and the majority of cases linked to outbreaks were in staff.

Half the outbreaks did not involve any students at all, and transmission between students was very rare. Where children did contract the infection, they were most likely to catch COVID-19 at home, usually from a parent.

The probable transmission direction for the 30 confirmed outbreaks was: staff-to-staff (n=15), staff-to-student (n=7), student-to-staff (n=6) and student-to-student (n=2).

Dr Shamez Ladhani, Public Health England, said: “The strong correlation with regional SARS-CoV-2 incidence emphasises the importance of controlling community transmission to protect educational settings. Additional interventions should focus on reducing transmission in and among staff members."

The research has now been submitted to The Lancet.