Covid: how does the virus spread in schools?

Published by Cécile D. · Published on 16 November 2020 at 13h35 · Updated on 16 November 2020 at 16h13
Can children contaminate adults around them? Following teachers’ strike on Tuesday November 10, here is how the virus spreads in schools.

Are children small contaminators or, on the contrary, more contagious than other people? Views differ. Following several clusters and schools closing, France’s National Education has had to update the health protocol: face masks even became mandatory for children from six years old. Despite all this, teachers have decided to call for a strike on Tuesday November 10, calling for means to hold on during the current crisis.

Is it better to close schools in France as long as the pandemic lasts? The government does not rule for it, largely for the reason they do not want to see pupils’ level plummet.

To understand the risks professors and pupils are taking, Le Figaro has released an explanative video showing how coronavirus spreads in a classroom.

Thanks to a situation simulator, Le Figaro has recreated different scenarios. For instance, if the teacher is infected and speaks to pupils in a closed classroom and without a mask, in two hours, 12 children in 24 are contaminated. This number falls to five if everyone wears a mask and almost non-existent if the room is properly aired and the class duration is reduced in addition to the facemask-wearing.

Yet, it is difficult to gather all criteria required. Specifically, in junior highs or high schools because there are often more than 24 pupils per class. And even if they wear a mask, it is not always easy to air the room several times per hour, especially during winter. Furthermore, places like the cafeteria or corridors in school are very crowded and the virus can spread more easily, without complying with the health guidelines being possible.

A consensus seems to have been reached in the scientific community: children are not often or even not at all symptomatic, but they can carry the disease. A report from the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control released in August 2020 tends to show children can carry Covid-19 and that show symptoms are as contagious as adults.

By coming to school every day, by playing and studying in groups, children contaminate one another, and by extension, can contaminate people around them. It is even harder to know if children infected – but asymptomatic – spread the virus as well. This explains why doctors now recommend people to wear a facemask at home.

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