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Report: COVID-19 in schools and the experience in NSW

Published: 26 April 2020

A report into the transmission of COVID-19 within NSW schools in term 1 has found no evidence that students transmit the virus to adults in the schools studied.

The ‘COVID-19 in schools – the experience in NSW’ report released today by the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance (NCIRS), studied 15 schools in NSW that recorded confirmed COVID-19 cases from March to mid-April. 

Of the 863 close contacts at schools with positive cases, only two contracted the virus with no evidence of students infecting teachers.
The Minister for Education and Early Childhood Learning, Sarah Mitchell said the report provides further information for schools as they begin planning for students to return to the classroom.
“We know that COVID-19 has created some anxiety for parents, teachers and school staff, however the findings in this report confirm existing health advice that schools remain open and are safe for students to return,” Ms Mitchell said.
While school aged children represent around 16% of the NSW population, only 1.7% of COVID-19 cases have been in this age group. 
“Our managed return to school provides an orderly pathway to return students to the classroom, and allows for additional measures for teachers and parents,” Ms Mitchell said. 
“Our teachers are dedicated professionals who are excited to see their students again. They have shown great innovation in adapting to the uncertainty that COVID-19 has brought, but nothing replaces the experience of learning in a classroom.”
Minister for Health Brad Hazzard said NSW Health experts are doing an exceptional job supporting schools during the pandemic.
“Our health experts have been working closely with schools to immediately follow up on any reported cases with contact tracing, and provide advice to the Department of Education to help keep children, their families and staff safe,” Mr Hazzard said.
Author of the report Professor Kristine Macartney, Director of the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance (NCIRS) said while this important investigation is ongoing, our findings build on emerging data from overseas that suggest very little spread of COVID-19 between children or from children to adults.
“A unique aspect of this work is that we were able to look specifically for spread in schools over many weeks and utilise additional testing methods. We appreciate the cooperation of the students, families, teachers and principals who really saw the value of systematically and scientifically approaching the investigation,” Professor Macartney said. 

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