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Shut and re-open: the role of schools in the spread of COVID-19 in Europe.

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We investigate the effect of school closure and subsequent reopening on the transmission of COVID-19, by considering Denmark, Norway, Sweden and German states as case studies. By comparing the growth rates in daily hospitalizations or confirmed cases under different interventions, we provide evidence that school closures contribute to a reduction in the growth rate approximately 7 days after implementation. Limited school attendance, such as older students sitting exams or the partial return of younger year groups, does not appear to significantly affect community transmission. In countries where community transmission is generally low, such as Denmark or Norway, a large-scale reopening of schools while controlling or suppressing the epidemic appears feasible. However, school reopening can contribute to statistically significant increases in the growth rate in countries like Germany, where community transmission is relatively high. In all regions, a combination of low classroom occupancy and robust test-and-trace measures were in place. Our findings underscore the need for a cautious evaluation of reopening strategies. This article is part of the theme issue 'Modelling that shaped the early COVID-19 pandemic response in the UK'.


Funder: Department for Health and Social Care


COVID-19, non-pharmaceutical interventions, school closure, school reopening, Adolescent, COVID-19, Denmark, Europe, Germany, Humans, Norway, Pandemics, SARS-CoV-2, Schools, Sweden

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Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci

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The Royal Society
Wellcome Trust (202562/Z/16/Z)
Royal Society (202562/Z/16/Z)
Canadian Institutes of Health Research (2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) rapid research)
Medical Research Council (MC UU 00002/11)