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Aug 6: Research on corona in secondary schools

Many people in small spaces, ventilation that is not optimal ... Secondary schools can pose a risk for the spread of COVID-19. UMC Utrecht will conduct research into this together with TU Delft, Erasmus MC and IRAS.

Since July 1st, pupils at school no longer have to keep a distance of 1.5 meters from each other and after the summer holidays, secondary schools and schools for secondary special education will open completely again. Many school environments can accommodate large numbers of students in classrooms that are close together, while ventilation is often not optimal. Although the coronavirus, like other viruses that cause respiratory infections, is mainly transmitted through coughing and sneezing, there are indications that this also may happen via so-called aerosols: tiny drops of moisture in the air that are released when screaming, singing, talking and even breathing

Hotspot for virus spread

Patricia Bruijning, pediatrician-epidemiologist at UMC Utrecht: “People who have no symptoms or no symptoms yet can also transmit the corona virus. Aerosols remain in the air for much longer than the larger cough or sneeze drops and they can spread further than 1.5 meters. ” For example, places with poor ventilation can be a "hotspot" for the spread of the virus. Young children are known to transmit the virus less easily, but this is less clear to adolescents. Patricia: "High schools can pose a risk for the spread of COVID-19, but we don't know yet how big that risk is."

National preparedness platform

That is why UMC Utrecht is starting an investigation into this. First, it will be investigated in the lab how contagious aerosols can be and how these aerosols behave in the air under different ventilation conditions. Simultaneously, from a sample of twenty secondary schools, the conditions of the indoor environment (ventilation, air conditioning, heating, classroom interior, number of pupils, outside windows, etc.) will be mapped and air samples taken to monitor virus presence in the school. A national preparedness platform is also being set up to provide comprehensive investigation of COVID-19 outbreaks in schools.

UMC Utrecht is conducting this research together with Technical University Delft, Erasmus MC and IRAS. The first results are expected early next year.