Expected impact of reopening schools after lockdown on COVID-19 epidemic in Île-de-France

11 May 2020

The Epidemiological and Modelling Study team has published a preprint paper on the possible impact of reopening schools after lockdown on COVID-19 epidemic in the region of Île-de-France (Domenico et al. 2020).

Assessing the risk that school reopening may have on the transmission of the epidemic is a key challenge, as the role of children in COVID-19 spread is not yet well understood. The reopening of schools in Île-de-France region is currently scheduled for 11 May 2020 and the study team has tested different hypotheses on children’s transmissibility distinguishing between younger children and adolescents.

Reopening schools after lifting the lockdown will likely lead to an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in the following 2 months, even with lower transmissibility in children, yet protocols exist that would allow maintaining the epidemic under control without saturating the healthcare system in France. Easing exit strategies through progressive reopening of schools may help prepare schools to accept children. Due to the fact that 8 weeks remain of the school year, full attendance of younger children in pre-schools and primary schools is possible. The findings of this study, however, suggest that higher school levels may become important settings for transmission, with the chance for spreading the epidemic within the community.

Moderate social distancing interventions where workers can resume professional activity and the partial reopening of commerce is predicted to keep the epidemic under control if massive targeted testing is also implemented. In addition, this study does not consider the generalised use of masks, required in public transports and recommended in open places once lockdown ends, as estimates are not yet available on their effectiveness as preventive measures.

Further epidemiological and virological investigations are urgently needed to better characterise the role of children in the transmission dynamics of the disease, across age classes, and both at schools and in the community.

Read article here
Authors: Laura Di Domenico, Giulia Pullano, Chiara E. Sabbatini, Pierre-Yves Boëlle, Vittoria Colizza

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