Is the virus spread through children?

COVID-19 is often asymptomatic or with milder symptoms in children compared with adults. However, information regarding the circulation of the virus among children remains limited and the role of the transmission from children to adults is yet unknown.
From left to right: Dr. Knoester, Melvin Frie (co-assistant) and Lisa Havinga (co-assistant).

Reopening primary schools

To gain more information on the potential role of children in the pandemic, the team led by Prof. Alex Friedrich and Dr. Marjolein Knoester, microbiologists at the University Medical Center in Groningen, conducted the BackToSchool study. It is a single-center prospective cohort study among 568 healthcare workers of the UMCG, including 283 with children attending primary school and 285 without children at home. This study aimed to investigate whether the reopening of primary schools in the Netherlands on the 11th of May, 2020, led to increased SARS-CoV-2 incidence among adult healthcare workers. For three weeks in a row, from May 20th to June 15th, 2020, participants were weekly tested for SARS-CoV-2 using high-nose and throat swabs and had to fill a questionnaire.

The results of the study published in June 2021 showed that there were no differences between the two groups. It needs to be said that when the study was performed the incidence of SARS-CoV-2 in the northern Netherlands was low (0.5%). “The findings of this study suggest that reopening primary schools in areas with a low population density and low SARS-CoV-2 incidences will not cause disproportional SARS-CoV-2 transmission in this area. However, it is important to state that our study does not exclude that in another epidemiological context, with a higher incidence, introduction of positive cases into schools could have led to enhanced transmission of SARS-CoV-2.”