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Covid tests and key contact tracking for safely reopening schools, suggest two new studies



Researchers in Britain have found that schools can be reopened safely as long as there is enough contact tracking. Contact tracking strategies involve enough testing to find cases, isolate those people, then follow up and quarantine their contacts. And a team in Australia found that although schools remained open in New South Wales between late January and early April, children and teachers did not contribute significantly to the spread of Covid-19 – because that good tracking and control strategies were in place.

The British study uses a model to estimate how much testing and contact tracing would be needed to prevent the second wave of Covid-19 after schools reopening next September. The study suggests that, depending on the scenario, between 59% and 87% of symptomatic people in the community will need to be tested at some point during their infection, their contacts will have to be traced and those with diseases they must be isolated. in order to prevent a recurrence of the epidemic.
“Our study suggests that it would be possible to prevent a wave of secondary epidemics in the UK if enough people with symptomatic infection could be diagnosed and their contacts effectively traced and isolated,”
; Jasmina Panovska-Griffiths , a senior research partner and lecturer in mathematical modeling at London College, who led the UK study, told CNN in an email.

“However, without sufficient coverage of an isolated test-trail strategy, the UK risks the second peak of the serious epidemic in either December or February,” she added in a statement.

‘Paper highlights importance of testing’

Panovska-Griffiths and colleagues conducted a variety of scenarios to see how much contact tracing would be needed to safely reopen schools. One scenario represented schools reopening all the time and the other represented schools reopening part-time, with half of the students attending school on alternate weeks.

Study says spring school closures have been linked to a decline in Covid-19 cases and deaths

In general, the model predicted that by reopening schools either full-time or part-time, combined with the relaxation of other social exclusion measures, a second wave of epidemic if enough people with the symptoms of Covid-19 can be diagnosed and their contacts traced and isolated effectively.

“In summary, our findings suggest that reopening schools may form part of the next step of gradual lock-out relaxation when combined with a high-coverage test – trail – isolate strategy. , ”the researchers wrote in the study.

They added that their findings were consistent under the two assumptions that children transmit coronavirus in the same way to adults or that infectivity among children is relative by 50% for ages 20 and up. more.

“The paper emphasizes the importance of testing a high proportion of COVID-19 symptomatic cases and tracking a large proportion of their contacts, but as the authors note, the analysis looks at a very optimistic scenario about the speed and testing performance – it assumes the test is 100% accurate, results are received within a day, and everyone is isolated for two weeks, “Adam Kucharski, associate professor of infectious disease epidemiology at the School of ‘Hygiene and Tropical Medicine London, which was not involved in the new study, said in a written statement.
Rapid tests are needed to make coronavirus contact tracing most effective, research finds.

“In reality, there will be a compromise in speed and effectiveness – even if a high proportion of people with COVID-19 are tested, transmission will not stop if the test results end up taking too long or Infected contacts are not traced before they become infectious, “Kucharski said. “In order to have maximum impact, test and trace need to identify and isolate a large proportion of infected cases and their contacts, but also do so quickly enough to move the outbreak forward.”

The study had some other limitations, including that the findings in the model are only estimates that predict what might be possible under various scenarios – so the prediction is not definitive for the future.

Further research is also needed to determine if the model makes similar predictions for the United States and other nations around the world.

Globally, more than 1.5 billion students – or 90% of the world’s students – have been affected by the temporary closure of schools and universities this year due to the pandemic, according to the Education, Science and Culture Organization. The United Nations.

“Both studies give potential options to keep schools open”

For the other study, also published in The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health, Australian researchers found that despite 27 staff children in 25 schools and trouble attending while they were infectious with Covid-19, 18- the other person only later became infected.

By tracking contacts, 1,448 close contacts were identified and called. They were told that they should be tested if they showed any symptoms. Overall, 633 did test. But only 18 of them tested positive – an attack rate of 1.2%.

Nine of the 10 settings had no secondary spills.

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It is possible that some cases will not be lost, the researchers said, but said others could use their studies as they decide if and how to reopen schools.

“Both studies provide potential options for keeping schools open and show the clear importance of adequate contact tracking and testing,” British epidemiologist John Edmunds of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine wrote in an editorial accompanying the new studies at The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health on Monday.

“However, many questions remain, including whether there are age-related differences in susceptibility and likelihood of transmission between children and adolescents. We urgently need large-scale research programs to closely monitor the the impact of reopening schools, “Edmunds wrote.

“There is no quick fix to this terrible pandemic. However, it is becoming increasingly clear that governments around the world need to find solutions that will allow children and young adults to return to full education. -time in the safest and fastest way possible. “




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