Modelling Suggests Limited Change in the Reproduction Number from Reopening Norwegian Kindergartens and Schools During the COVID-19 Pandemic [article]

Martin Rypdal, Veronika Gjertsen Rypdal, Per Kirsten Jakobsen, Elinor Ytterstad, Ola Lovsletten, Claus Klingenberg, Kristoffer Rypdal
2020 medRxiv   pre-print
To suppress the COVID-19 outbreak, the Norwegian government closed all schools on March 13, 2020. The kindergartens reopened on April 20, and the schools on April 27 and May 11 of 2020. The effect of these measures is largely unknown since the role of children in the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus is still unclear. There are only a few studies of school closures as a separate intervention to other social distancing measures, and little research exists on the effect of school opening during a
more » ... demic. Objective: This study aimed to model the effect of opening kindergartens and the schools in Norway in terms of a change in the reproduction number (R). A secondary objective was to assess if we can use the estimated R after school openings to infer the rates of transmission between children in schools. Methods: We used an individual-based model (IBM) to assess the reopening of kindergartens and schools in two Norwegian cities, Oslo, the Norwegian capital, with a population of approximately 680 000, and Tromsoe, which is the largest city in Northern Norway, with a population of approximately 75 000. The model uses demographic information and detailed data about the schools in both cities. We carried out an ensemble study to obtain robust results in spite of the considerable uncertainty that remains about the transmission of SARS-CoV-2. Results: We found that reopening of Norwegian kindergartens and schools are associated with a change in R of 0.10 (95%CI 0.04-0.16) and 0.14 (95%CI 0.01-0.25) in the two cities under investigation if the in-school transmission rates for the SARS-CoV-2 virus are equal to what Ferguson et al. have previously estimated for influenza pandemics [1]. Conclusion: We found only a limited effect of reopening schools on the reproduction number, and we expect the same to hold true in other countries where nonpharmaceutical interventions have suppressed the pandemic. Consequently, current R-estimates are insufficiently accurate for determining the transmission rates in schools. For countries that have not opened schools yet, planned interventions, such as the opening of selected schools, can be useful to infer general knowledge about children-to-children transmission of SARS-CoV-2.
doi:10.1101/2020.08.14.20174896 fatcat:32wa6yz6fzd7fkm5c44ddumzfq