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expert reaction to a report looking at national surveillance of preschools and primary schools for SARS-CoV-2 infection and transmission in England

The government have published a report on  the national surveillance of preschools and primary schools for SARS-CoV-2 infection and transmission in England.


Dr Liz Whittaker, Clinical Lecturer and Consultant Paediatric, Infectious Diseases and Immunology, Imperial College London, said:

“This study is reassuring for parents and teachers. It is a good quality study, although limited by the timing as there was very low transmission of SARS-CoV-2 virus during the study period.  However, the seroprevalence data (evidence of previous infection with SARS-CoV-2) was not increased in those who had spent more time in school and was similar in students and staff, most likely reflecting community transmission since onset of the pandemic.  

“It is essential that studies such as these continue over the next few months, and importantly, are also performed in secondary school and college settings.”


Prof Ravindra Gupta, Professor of Clinical Microbiology, University of Cambridge, said:

“These are welcome findings and important. However some cautious optimism is needed. There are very few cases in schools in the context of relatively low community prevalence of COVID-19. It would appear that with the right social distancing measures, transmission can be mitigated. But I would highlight that this was conducted in schools with limited numbers of children attending, 3 years groups at most. The median number of children attending in each school was 93. In reality up to 2 to 6 times as many children would attend one setting (depending on class sizes and number of forms in each year). So from September there will be more children, more mixing, more crowding and over winter less time will be spent outdoors. There is less ability to socially distance than schools were able to in June. We must not be complacent and falsely reassured. We must ensure adequate monitoring and testing strategies to pick up infections in schools before they spread.

“It is important to note that the chance of having antibodies for SARS-CoV-2 in children was similar to their teachers, which suggests that children this age are as likely as adults to be infected. Additionally, children were often asymptomatic which means that infected children may still continue to attend school if we do not regularly test for the virus in schools.”


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