COVID-19 transmission remains low in NSW education settings, Term 4 data shows
The spread of COVID-19 remained “extremely low” in New South Wales schools and early childhood settings, a new data set has shown, with onward transmission of only 1.2 per cent in Term 4 2020, consistent with findings from earlier in the year.
COVID-19 in schools and early childhood education and care (ECEC) services – the Term 4 experience in NSW summarises the latest data from an ongoing study by researchers from the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance (NCIRS) and the University of Sydney, in collaboration with NSW Health and the NSW Department of Education.
Between 26 September 2020 and 18 December 2020, NSW had a COVID-19 notification rate of seven cases per 100,000 population, with most cases related to the Northern Beaches cluster in mid-December. During Term 4, schools and ECEC services remained open with high attendance rates of 88 per cent.
Key findings in Term 4 included:
- 10 people (nine students and one staff member) at 10 educational settings (six schools and four ECEC services) were confirmed as primary COVID-19 cases who had an opportunity to transmit the virus to others in their school or ECEC service.
- 1,113 individuals (953 students [86 per cent] and 160 [14 per cent] staff members) were identified as close contacts of these 10 primary cases.
- There were only 13 secondary cases (12 students and 1 staff member) in 4 of the 10 educational settings (two primary schools and two ECEC services). There was no secondary transmission in secondary schools.
In addition, during the summer holidays, one child from an ECEC service was confirmed as a primary COVID-19 case who was infectious during their attendance. There were 16 close contacts of this case and no secondary cases.
The overall secondary transmission rate was 1.2 per cent (13/1,113) for all educational settings, with no transmission in high schools, 2.3 per cent in primary schools and 0.8 per cent in ECEC services.
Paediatric infectious disease specialist Dr Archana Koirala noted that the latest results confirm that transmission of COVID-19 in NSW schools and early childhood services remains minimal, especially from children to adults.
“In 2020, we followed every single COVID-19 case in schools and preschools across the state of NSW and found transmission to be consistently low,” Dr Koirala said.
“Continued access to education is important for children. Keeping schools and ECEC services open in NSW during the pandemic has been possible due to comprehensive testing and contact tracing and adherence with COVID Safe practices.”
Despite this, COVID-19 introduction into the community remains a risk, she said, “particularly with the new, more highly transmissible strains, and so it remains important that we continue current strategies, even as the COVID-19 vaccine program begins to roll out.”
This study will continue in 2021 to monitor transmission of COVID-19 in educational settings.
For access to the full report, visit https://www.ncirs.org.au/reports