England’s Schools Had Low Covid Risk After Reopening: Study

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Coronavirus cases were low in schools that reopened in England after the first nationwide lockdown, suggesting there was little risk of spreading the disease, according to a study published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal.

The research covered nurseries and schools that reopened after implementing measures such as smaller classes and the formation of social bubbles. Educational settings in England closed in late March for the first lockdown, with some partially reopening from June 1 to July 17.

Of the 8.9 million students in England, only 1.6 million attended school during that period, according to the study, which spanned about 38,000 nurseries and almost 20,000 primary and secondary schools at any one time.

Outbreaks in schools correlated strongly with local infection rates, highlighting a need to reduce community transmission in order to protect educational settings, according to the study, which used Public Health England’s online national database. The virus was also most often spread among the staff, while student-to-student transmission was rare.

The question of whether to open schools for face-to-face learning has been one of the most pressing issues facing governments as they try to balance societal needs with efforts to contain the virus.

The authors acknowledged that England’s schools reopened at a time when Covid-19 cases had fallen nationally, and that the strict social distancing measures in place may not be possible with full attendance. Infection rates in children may also be underestimated, they said.

Many U.K. schools have been affected by outbreaks among staff and students since reopening from the summer vacation period.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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