Update: COVID-19 in European schools
We reviewed school policies and recent data of selected countries in Europe (Germany, France, England, and Sweden) to see if there were new data on COVID-19 transmissions in schools. The below is a summary of the findings.
- Schools remain open despite the national lockdown measures.
- Epidemiological situation in schools is considered to reflect rather than drive community
- While countries have data on COVID-19 cases in school-aged children, data around school
transmissions is limited. Overall, more transmissions are reported in secondary and high schools
than in primary schools with children up to 10–12 years.(1)
- Many countries have introduced new measures in November, including obligatory mask use.
- WHO Technical Advisory Group on Schooling during COVID-19 (1) has recently recommended that:
schools closures should be considered only as a last measure;
asymptomatic children and adolescents should not be routinely tested;
for children over 12 years, masks are recommended based on the same principles as adults. For children aged 6–11 years, masks can be recommended based on community transmission level and ability to maintain physical distancing and ventilation.
This brief is based mostly on news reports as there is limited up-to-date official public health data.
School-aged children (6-18 years) continue to constitute less than one percent of the cases in Germany.(2)
Testing capacity overall is limited.
Since November, masks are compulsory from seventh grade onwards in the regions where there are high levels of transmissions. Other measures include 1.5 meters physical distancing and improving ventilation.(3) Keeping windows open has led to cold rooms with children bringing blankets and warm clothes from home.(4)
On 16 December, a national lockdown will be implemented with schools closing for holidays.
Despite the national lockdown, schools have remained open.
Outbreaks in schools are not common: in the end of November, out of 61,500 schools nationwide, 19 primary schools, three middle schools and three high schools were closed because of outbreaks.
Despite a high level of community transmission, there are no specific concerns around school transmission: 0.06% of the 12 million schoolchildren, mostly teenagers, have been tested positive.(5)
Since November, children aged six and older are required to wear masks at school.(6) 1 meter distancing is recommended in a classroom.
Schools safety is politicized - there have been demonstrations of teachers’ union and students to call for stricter safety and hygiene measures in schools.(7)
Schools remain open but close few days early for the Christmas holidays.
School attendance dropped towards the end of November, but has now increased. Estimated 7-8% of students did not attend school for COVID-19 related reasons (as of 3 December), mostly due to self-isolation. Estimated 0.2% of these were with a confirmed COVID-19 case. (8)
Children are kept in separate groups (“bubbles”). Since November, masks are obligatory from the grade 7 onwards.
Mass testing is planned for secondary schools in the most affected areas.(9)
Children aged 0-19 continue to constitute a small proportion (6.7%; the same age group make up 23 per cent of the population) of all confirmed COVID-19 cases, cases mainly among teenagers. In October, the number of diagnosed cases increased, especially among older teenagers.(10)
Children are overall tested to a lesser extent.
Masks are not obligatory for students or staff.
1 WHO TAG. Recommendations of the Technical Advisory Group on Schooling during COVID-19 for the High-level Meeting on 8
2 Weekly epi reports by state, see (“aktuell mit Covid-19 infizierte SuS):
8 Latest data by the Government of England: https://explore-education-statistics.service.gov.uk/find-statistics/attendance-ineducation-