30 coronavirus outbreaks in English schools after June reopenings, Public Health England research shows

There were 30 outbreaks of coronavirus in English schools after they reopened in June, according to Public Health England analysis.

Sunday, 23rd August 2020, 2:34 pm

The PHE report, published on Sunday, August 23, said the reopening of schools following the easing of national lockdown was associated with a total of 198 confirmed Covid-19 cases, 70 in children and 128 in staff.

There were 67 single confirmed cases, four “co-primary” cases and 30 outbreaks of Covid-19 in schools during June, it added. A total of 121 cases were linked to the outbreaks, 30 in children and 91 in staff, the analysis said.

Co-primary cases were defined as two or more confirmed cases with a common epidemiological link diagnosed at the same time, while outbreaks were defined as two or more epidemiologically linked cases where subsequent cases were diagnosed within 14 days.

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Pupils returned to schools across England in June. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

Outbreaks were usually small in size and more than half (53%) involved just one secondary case, the analysis said.

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The report said there was a “strong correlation” between community coronavirus incidence and risk of outbreaks in educational settings, even during a period of low Covid-19 incidence.

But it added this was not surprising because increased community transmission provided more opportunities for the virus to be introduced into educational settings.

The analysis said further school closures may be necessary in regions with increasing community infection, but this should only be considered “in extremis”.

The analysis also said the majority of cases linked to outbreaks were in staff, and warned staff need to be “more vigilant” for exposure outside the school.

It found that in half of the 30 confirmed outbreaks, the “probable transmission direction” was staff-to-staff, with seven staff-to-student, six student-to-staff and two student-to-student.

But it said early detection and isolation of staff and students can prevent the progression of an outbreak “in most cases”.

The analysis comes the day after the UK’s chief medical officers warned children are more at risk of long-term harm if they do not attend school than if they return to the classroom despite coronavirus.

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