A new voluntary coronavirus (COVID-19) study will assess and monitor the prevalence of the disease among pre-school, primary and secondary school pupils and teachers, Public Health England has announced.
The study will add to data on antibody and virus prevalence already being collected through national surveillance programmes and other nationwide studies, which report weekly. The initial phase will collect data from up to 100 schools from across England, including 15 schools in London, with results available over the summer. We are targeting around 200 staff and children at each school. Data will be fed back to inform a potential second phase study in September
‘A critical pillar of our COVID-19 testing strategy is surveillance – testing samples of the population to gain a deeper understanding of the spread of COVID-19, especially in those who may not have symptoms,’ said Health Secretary Matt Hancock.
‘This study will help us better understand how common asymptomatic and mild cases of COVID-19 are so that we can support parents, pupils and teachers and support staff, and inform our ongoing response to this new virus.’
This surveillance study will seek to better understand rates of transmission in children and adults within schools over the coming months by swab testing to see if they have the virus. Participation from schools is on a voluntary basis, and all parents and guardians will be asked to provide informed consent for their children or dependents prior to testing.
‘We are delighted this study is up and running in schools across England. By working with students and staff we’ll be able to better understand infection and transmission of asymptomatic and mild infections of COVID-19 that may have otherwise remained undetected,’ said Dr Shamez Ladhani, Paediatric Infectious Diseases Consultant, Public Health England.
‘The results of this study will play an important role in informing wider surveillance planned for educational settings in the autumn term. Through active surveillance, contact tracing and the close monitoring of any clusters of cases, we are committed to ensuring the safety of students and staff returning to school in the coming weeks and months.’