Teachers not at greater risk of coronavirus infection than wider community: study
The data provide 'indirect reassurance that there isn't a lot of asymptomatic transmission' in schools, said the study's chief investigator.
Schools with controls in place to prevent the spread of coronavirus show similar levels of infection among staff compared with the wider community, according to research on English schools released on Monday.
By contrast, studies on care homes and health care professionals — also operating in indoor environments — show far higher infection rates. While between 12 and 15 percent of school staff in the survey have been infected, those rates are two to three times higher for health care workers and even higher in care homes, the authors note.
The survey — conducted by Public Health England, the Office of National Statistics, and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine — looked at the current prevalence of disease as well as past infection.
England’s scheduled return of staff and pupils to the classroom next week has prompted many teachers to raise concerns over an increased risk of infection. If this study holds, however, there should be limited cause for worry as long as control measures that work in the community — such as enhanced cleaning, limiting gatherings and social distancing among adults — remain in place.
The data provide “indirect reassurance that there isn’t a lot of asymptomatic transmission going on in this setting,” said Shamez Ladhani, chief investigator.
He cautioned against over-stating the results, since the study covered a short period of time and had a relatively small sample size. Still, one of the “most likeliest reasons that we don’t see the large and widespread infections in schools must be because of all the mitigation processes that are in place,” he concluded.
The study tested primary and secondary school staff and pupils from November 3-19 and December 2-10, with 105 schools participating in the first round and 121 schools in the second round. Around 40 percent of all staff and around 15 percent of eligible pupils took part.
In November, 12.63 percent of primary staff tested positive for antibodies, compared to 12.27 percent of secondary staff. In December, 14.61 percent of primary staff tested positive for antibodies compared to 15.72 percent of secondary staff. Similarly, secondary school pupils were more likely to have been infected than primary school pupils.