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As record cases of Omicron variant were registered in Europe in early 2022, schools remained a vulnerable setting undergoing large disruption.


Through mathematical modelling, we compared school protocols of reactive screening, regular screening, and reactive class closure implemented in France, in Baselland (Switzerland), and in Italy, respectively, and assessed them in terms of case prevention, testing resource demand, and schooldays lost.


We used a stochastic agent-based model of SARS-CoV-2 transmission in schools accounting for within- and across-class contacts from empirical contact data. We parameterised it to the Omicron BA.1 variant to reproduce the French Omicron wave in January 2022. We simulated the three protocols to assess their costs and effectiveness for varying peak incidence rates in the range experienced by European countries.


We estimated that at the high incidence rates registered in France during the Omicron BA.1 wave in January 2022, the reactive screening protocol applied in France required higher test resources compared with the weekly screening applied in Baselland (0.50 vs 0.45 tests per student-week), but achieved considerably lower control (8% vs 21% reduction of peak incidence). The reactive class closure implemented in Italy was predicted to be very costly, leading to > 20% student-days lost.


At high incidence conditions, reactive screening protocols generate a large and unplanned demand in testing resources, for marginal control of school transmissions. Comparable or lower resources could be more efficiently used through weekly screening. Our findings can help define incidence levels triggering school protocols and optimise their cost-effectiveness.


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