Prospective Active National Surveillance of Preschools and Primary Schools for SARS-CoV-2 Infection and Transmission in England, June 2020
27 Pages Posted: 20 Jan 2021
Date Written: January 11, 2021
Background: Many countries re-opened schools after national lockdown but little is known about the risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection and transmission in educational settings. Public Health England conducted six-month prospective surveillance in primary schools across England.
Methods: The COVID-19 Surveillance in School KIDs (sKIDs) study included two arms: weekly nasal swabs for ≥4 weeks following partial reopening during the summer half-term (June to mid-July 2020) and blood sampling with nasal and throat swabs at the beginning and end of the summer half-term, and, following full reopening in September 2020, at the end of the autumn term (end-November 2020).
Results: In round 1, 12,026 participants (59.1% students, 40.9% staff) in 131 schools had 43,091 swabs taken. Weekly SARS-CoV-2 infection rates were 3.9 (1/25,537; 95% CI, 0.10-21.8) and 11.3 (2/17,554; 95% CI, 1.4-41.2) per 100,000 students and staff. At recruitment, N-antibody positivity in 45 schools was 11.1% (91/817; 95%CI, 9.2-13.5%) in students and 15.1% (209/1381; 95%CI, 13.3-17.1%) in staff, similar to local community seroprevalence. Seropositivity was not associated with school attendance during lockdown or staff contact with students. Round 2 participation was 73.7% (1,619/2,198) and only five (4 students, 1 staff) seroconverted. In round 3, when 61.9% (1,361/2,198) of round 1 participants were re-tested, seroconversion rates were 3.4% (19/562; 95%CI, 2.0-5.2) in students and 3.9% (36/930; 95%CI, 2.7-5.3) in staff.
Conclusions: SARS-CoV-2 infection rates, assessed using nasal swabs for acute infection and serum antibodies for prior infection, were low following partial and full reopening of primary schools in England.
Funding: Department of Health
Note: Funding: This surveillance was funded by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC)
Declaration of Interests: None of the authors have any conflict of interest.
Ethics Approval Statement: The surveillance protocol was approved by the Public Health England Research Ethics Governance Group (R&D REGG Ref: NR0209, 16 May 2020).
Keywords: SARS-CoV-2 infection, COVID-19, schools, transmission, students, teachers
JEL Classification: I1
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation