1887
Research Open Access
Like 0

Abstract

Background

The role of schools in SARS-CoV-2 transmission has been a debated topic since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Aim

To examine SARS-CoV-2 transmission in all schools in Ireland during the 2020–21 school year.

Methods

In a national descriptive cross-sectional study, we investigated PCR-confirmed cases of COVID-19 among students (aged < 20 years) and staff (aged ≥ 20 years) who attended school during their infectious period to identify school close contacts. SARS-CoV-2 PCR test results of all school close contacts were pooled to obtain an overall positivity rate and to stratify positivity rate by school setting and role (i.e. student or staff).

Results

In total, 100,474 individuals were tested as close contacts in 1,771 schools during the 2020–21 school year. An overall close contact positivity rate of 2.4% was observed across all schools (n = 2,373 secondary cases). The highest positivity rate was seen in special schools (3.4%), followed by primary (2.5%) and post-primary schools (1.8%) (p < 0.001). Of the close contacts identified, 90.5% (n = 90,953) were students and 9.5% (n = 9,521) were staff. Overall, students had a significantly higher positivity rate than staff (2.4% vs 1.8%, p < 0.001).

Conclusion

This study demonstrated that a low level of SARS-CoV-2 transmission occurred in Irish schools during the 2020-21 academic year. In the event of future pandemics, and as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, there is a need to carefully weigh up the harms and benefits associated with disrupted education to mitigate infectious disease transmission before reflexively closing classes or schools.

Loading

Article metrics loading...

/content/10.2807/1560-7917.ES.2023.28.15.2200554
2023-04-13
2024-04-14
http://instance.metastore.ingenta.com/content/10.2807/1560-7917.ES.2023.28.15.2200554
Loading
Loading full text...

Full text loading...

/deliver/fulltext/eurosurveillance/28/15/eurosurv-28-15-3.html?itemId=/content/10.2807/1560-7917.ES.2023.28.15.2200554&mimeType=html&fmt=ahah

References

  1. United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). COVID-19 and School Closures: One year of education disruption. New York: UNICEF; 2021. Available from: https://data.unicef.org/resources/one-year-of-covid-19-and-school-closures/
  2. Allison MA, Attisha E, Council on School Health. The link between school attendance and good health. Pediatrics. 2019;143(2):e20183648.  https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2018-3648  PMID: 30835245 
  3. Viner R, Russell S, Saulle R, Croker H, Stansfield C, Packer J, et al. School closures during social lockdown and mental health, health behaviors, and well-being among children and adolescents during the first COVID-19 wave. JAMA Pediatr. 2022;176(4):400-9.  https://doi.org/10.1001/jamapediatrics.2021.5840  PMID: 35040870 
  4. Abrehart T, Suryadinata R, McCafferty C, Jacobson J, Ignjatovic V, Robinson P, et al. Age-related differences in SARS-CoV-2 binding factors: An explanation for reduced susceptibility to severe COVID-19 among children? Paediatr Respir Rev. 2022;44:61-9. PMID: 35227628 
  5. Afonso ET, Marques SM, Costa LDC, Fortes PM, Peixoto F, Bichuetti-Silva DC, et al. Secondary household transmission of SARS-CoV-2 among children and adolescents: Clinical and epidemiological aspects. Pediatr Pulmonol. 2022;57(1):162-75.  https://doi.org/10.1002/ppul.25711  PMID: 35227628 
  6. Bistaraki A, Roussos S, Tsiodras S, Sypsa V. Age-dependent effects on infectivity and susceptibility to SARS-CoV-2 infection: results from nationwide contact tracing data in Greece. Infect Dis (Lond). 2022;54(3):186-95.  https://doi.org/10.1080/23744235.2021.1995627  PMID: 34743646 
  7. Chen F, Tian Y, Zhang L, Shi Y. The role of children in household transmission of COVID-19: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Int J Infect Dis. 2022;122:266-75.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijid.2022.05.016  PMID: 35562045 
  8. Dawood FS, Porucznik CA, Veguilla V, Stanford JB, Duque J, Rolfes MA, et al. Incidence rates, household infection risk, and clinical characteristics of SARS-CoV-2 infection among children and adults in Utah and New York City, New York. JAMA Pediatr. 2022;176(1):59-67.  https://doi.org/10.1001/jamapediatrics.2021.4217  PMID: 34623377 
  9. Fleming-Dutra KE, Britton A, Shang N, Derado G, Link-Gelles R, Accorsi EK, et al. Association of prior BNT162b2 COVID-19 vaccination with symptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infection in children and adolescents during Omicron predominance. JAMA. 2022;327(22):2210-9.  https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.2022.7493  PMID: 35560036 
  10. Viner R, Waddington C, Mytton O, Booy R, Cruz J, Ward J, et al. Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 by children and young people in households and schools: A meta-analysis of population-based and contact-tracing studies. J Infect. 2022;84(3):361-82.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jinf.2021.12.026  PMID: 34953911 
  11. Brandal LT, Ofitserova TS, Meijerink H, Rykkvin R, Lund HM, Hungnes O, et al. Minimal transmission of SARS-CoV-2 from paediatric COVID-19 cases in primary schools, Norway, August to November 2020. Euro Surveill. 2021;26(1):2002011.  https://doi.org/10.2807/1560-7917.ES.2020.26.1.2002011  PMID: 33413743 
  12. Jordan I, Fernandez de Sevilla M, Fumado V, Bassat Q, Bonet-Carne E, Fortuny C, et al. Transmission of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 infection among children in summer schools applying stringent control measures in Barcelona, Spain. Clin Infect Dis. 2022;74(1):66-73.  https://doi.org/10.1093/cid/ciab227  PMID: 33709138 
  13. Vardavas C, Nikitara K, Mathioudakis AG, Hilton Boon M, Phalkey R, Leonardi-Bee J, et al. Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in educational settings in 2020: a review. BMJ Open. 2022;12(4):e058308.  https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjopen-2021-058308  PMID: 35383084 
  14. National Public Health Emergency Team Policy Unit. Timeline and Detail of Public Health Restrictive Measures Advised by NPHET in Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic. Dublin: Department of Health; 2021.
  15. Department of the Taoiseach. Briefing on the government's response to COVID-19 - Wednesday 2 September 2020. Dublin: Government of Ireland; 2020. Available from: https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/5fa24-briefing-on-the-governments-response-to-covid-19-wednesday-2nd-september-2020/#introduction-and-up-to-date-public-health-guidance
  16. Department of Health. National framework for living with COVID-19. Dublin: Department of Health; 2020.
  17. Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC). Summary of COVID-19 virus variants in Ireland. Dublin: HPSC. [Accessed: 2 Aug 2021]. Available from: https://www.hpsc.ie/a-z/respiratory/coronavirus/novelcoronavirus/surveillance/summaryofcovid-19virusvariantsinireland
  18. Department of Education Key Statistics. Dublin: gov.ie. [Accessed: 1 Sep 2021]. Available from: https://www.gov.ie/en/collection/key-statistics
  19. Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC). COVID-19 interim case definition for Ireland. Dublin: HPSC. [Accessed: 10 Dec 2022]. Available from: https://www.hpsc.ie/a-z/respiratory/coronavirus/novelcoronavirus/casedefinitions/covid-19interimcasedefinitionforireland
  20. Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC). COVID-19 outbreak case definition for Ireland. Dublin: HPSC. [Accessed: 26 May 2021]. Available from: https://www.hpsc.ie/a-z/respiratory/coronavirus/novelcoronavirus/casedefinitions/covid-19outbreakcasedefinitionforireland
  21. Health Service Executive (HSE). Medical Officer of Health. Dublin: HSE. [Accessed: 10 Dec 2022]. Available from: https://www.hse.ie/eng/services/list/5/publichealth/publichealthdepts/moh/moh.html
  22. Office of the Clinical Director for Health Protection. Educational facilities mid-term review — a focus on primary and post-primary schools. The public health perspective. Dublin: Government of Ireland; 2020. Available from: https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/0d5d2-educational-facilities-mid-term-review-a-focus-on-primary-and-post-primary-schools
  23. Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC). Computerised Infectious Disease Reporting – CIDR Dublin: HPSC. [Accessed: 13 Oct 2021]. Available from: https://www.hpsc.ie/cidr
  24. Central Statistics Office (CSO). Age Groups. Dublin: CSO. [Accessed: 17 Mar 2023]. Available from: https://www.cso.ie/en/releasesandpublications/ep/p-cp3oy/cp3/agr
  25. Government of Ireland. Vaccinations. Dublin: gov.ie. [Accessed: 12 Oct 2021]. Available from: https://covid-19.geohive.ie/pages/vaccinations
  26. Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC). COVID-19 14-day Epidemiology reports. Dublin: HPSC. [Accessed: 1 Sep 2021]. Available from: https://www.hpsc.ie/a-z/respiratory/coronavirus/novelcoronavirus/casesinireland/archive/covid-1914-dayepidemiologyreports2020-2021/2021/
  27. Larosa E, Djuric O, Cassinadri M, Cilloni S, Bisaccia E, Vicentini M, et al. Secondary transmission of COVID-19 in preschool and school settings in northern Italy after their reopening in September 2020: a population-based study. Euro Surveill. 2020;25(49):10.  https://doi.org/10.2807/1560-7917.ES.2020.25.49.2001911  PMID: 33303065 
  28. Schoeps A, Hoffmann D, Tamm C, Vollmer B, Haag S, Kaffenberger T, et al. Surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 transmission in educational institutions, August to December 2020, Germany. Epidemiol Infect. 2021;149:e213.  https://doi.org/10.1017/S0950268821002077  PMID: 34549699 
  29. Macartney K, Quinn HE, Pillsbury AJ, Koirala A, Deng L, Winkler N, et al. Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in Australian educational settings: a prospective cohort study. Lancet Child Adolesc Health. 2020;4(11):807-16.  https://doi.org/10.1016/S2352-4642(20)30251-0  PMID: 32758454 
  30. Zimmerman KO, Akinboyo IC, Brookhart MA, Boutzoukas AE, McGann KA, Smith MJ, et al. Incidence and Secondary Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 Infections in Schools. Pediatrics. 2021;147(4):e2020048090.  https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2020-048090  PMID: 33419869 
  31. European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). COVID-19 in children and the role of school settings in transmission - second update. Stockholm: ECDC; 2021. Available from: https://www.ecdc.europa.eu/en/publications-data/children-and-school-settings-covid-19-transmission#no-link
  32. Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA). Evidence summary for the incubation period of COVID-19, or time to first positive test, in individuals exposed to SARS-CoV-2. Dublin: HIQA; 2021. Available from: https://www.hiqa.ie/sites/default/files/2020-11/Evidence-summary-for-the-incubation-period-of-COVID-19.pdf
  33. European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern as of June 9 2022. Stockholm: ECDC; 2021. Available from: https://www.ecdc.europa.eu/en/covid-19/variants-concern
  34. electronic Irish Statute Book (eISB). No SI. 390/1981 - Infectious Diseases Regulations 1981. Dublin: Office of the Attorney General. [Accessed: 13 Jun 2021]. Available from: http://www.irishstatutebook.ie/eli/1981/si/390/made/en/print
  35. National Immunisation Advisory Committee. Recommendations on COVID-19 vaccination for children aged 5 to 11 years. Dublin: Royal College of Physicians of Ireland; 2021. Available from: https://rcpi-live-cdn.s3.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/12/NIAC-Recommendations-on-COVID-19-vaccination-for-children-aged-5-to-11-years.pdf
  36. Department of the Taoiseach. Briefing on the government's response to COVID-19 - Friday 23 April 2021. Dublin: The Government of Ireland; 2021. Available from: https://www.gov.ie/ga/foilsiuchan/f8915-briefing-on-the-governments-response-to-covid-19-friday-23rd-april2021
  37. Department of Health. Minister for Health confirms that Ireland’s COVID-19 Vaccination Programme will open to 12-15 year olds. Dublin: Government of Ireland; 2021. Available from: https://www.gov.ie/en/press-release/6b845-minister-for-health-confirms-that-irelands-covid-19-vaccination-programme-will-open-to-12-15-year-olds
  38. Department of Education and Skills. Reopening Our Schools: The Roadmap for the Full Return to School. Dublin: Government of Ireland; 2020.
  39. Department of Education and Skills. Framework to maintain Physical Distancing in the Classroom in Post Primary Schools with a Full Return of All Students for the 2020/21 School Year: Roadmap for the Full Return to School. Dublin: Department of Education and Skills; 2020. Available from: https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/d0bb9-framework-to-maintain-physical-distancing-in-the-classroom-in-post-primary-schools
/content/10.2807/1560-7917.ES.2023.28.15.2200554
Loading

Data & Media loading...

Submit comment
Close
Comment moderation successfully completed
This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was a Success
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error