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Covid outbreaks in schools mainly driven by community transmission, finds report

The report recommends that schools and childcare centres should re-open as soon as community transmission of coronavirus falls and stays low.

By: Explained Desk | December 7, 2020 9:56:48 am
Second grader student eats his lunch socially distanced from his fellow students in the cafeteria at Perez Elementary School during the coronavirus pandemic, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020, in Brownsville, Texas. (Denise Cathey/The Brownsville Herald via AP)

Covid-19 cases in schools and childcare are mainly driven by community transmission, a new report has found. Therefore, according to the report, closing schools should be a last resort, especially for childcare and primary school children, as cases in this age group are less likely to transmit and be associated with an outbreak. The report recommends that schools and childcare centres should re-open as soon as community transmission of coronavirus falls and stays low.

The ‘Covid-19 in Victorian Schools Report’ was prepared by the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI), Australia at the request of the Victorian government. The report analysed government data which included reported Covid-19 cases and outbreaks across all early childhood and primary and secondary educational settings in Victoria from January 25 to August 31. It found that outbreaks in school and childcare centres were far more likely in those areas that also had high community levels, suggesting community transmission drives Covid-19 spread in schools. 📣 Follow Express Explained on Telegram

Key findings:

  • Of one million students enrolled, 337 (0.03%) had an infection linked to a school outbreak
  • 113 known events (involving a single case or more) in childcare with 234 cases potentially acquiring Covid-19 via events linked to childcare.
  • 1,635 infections were linked with childcare and schools in some way, out of a total of 19,901 infections in Victoria. Cases associated with schools accounted for 8% of all infections in Victoria
  • Of 139 infected staff and 373 infected students who may have acquired Covid via a childcare or school outbreak, eight (four staff and four students) were admitted to hospital and all recovered
  • Infections in childcare and schools were rarely linked to infections in the most vulnerable population — the elderly

Although the report was not able to determine the direction of transmission, the authors said they anticipate that this data will be gathered in the next school term if any additional outbreaks occur. The report also provided detailed plans to prevent possible outbreaks following the staged easing of lockdown restrictions which would follow a traffic light system. These plans have drawn on experiences from international settings, designed to reduce day-to-day disruptions as far as possible, while ensuring that teachers, students and the wider community are kept as safe as possible.

Source: Murdoch Children’s Research Institute

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