“Our data suggests that schools are not safe at all” with respect to the risk of Covid-19, “because no place is safe during a pandemic, but school is one of the safest places.” This was stated by Sara Gandini, head of the Molecular and Pharmaco-epidemiology Unit of the European Institute of Oncology (Ieo) in Milan and professor of Medical Statistics at the State University of the Lombard capital, who in collaboration with Gabriella Pravettoni, professor of Cognitive Psychology and decisions in the same university and director of Psychoncology at the Ieo, he oversaw a project funded by the European Commission.
The aim was to examine the scientific evidence of the transmission of the Sars-CoV-2 coronavirus in the school setting, analyzing all the studies published during the pandemic internationally on tracing, screening and serological investigations data in children and young people. “In the absence of clear evidence of the advantages of closing schools, the precautionary principle in our opinion indicates to keep schools open to prevent irreversible damage to children and adolescents, to women and to society as a whole,” Gandini underlines.
The conclusions of the meta-analysis, released on the pre-print platform ‘MedRxiv’ – report by the Ieo – summarize the data relating to more than 250 thousand subjects involved in dozens of international studies, and show a frequency of 0.31% of individuals found positive to school, considering screening studies, then sweep tests. Higher rates of positives with tracking (2.5%) were observed compared to screenings, and this suggests that sweeping all subjects in schools, regardless of symptoms, is not efficient because thousands of tests are done to find a very high percentage. low. Furthermore, there is no evidence that it helps to reduce clusters, a conclusion that the Italian Scientific Technical Committee has also reached. Furthermore – the authors underline – age comparisons confirm that young people found positive were 74% less likely than adults to favor viral spread, and that minors were 40% significantly less susceptible to infection than adults.
Overall, according to the researchers, the data show that the circulation of Sars-CoV-2 in schools has been reasonably controlled, also thanks to the prevention measures used in countries where schools have remained open despite the second wave of 2020.
Gandini and Pravettoni’s project is funded by the EU under the EuCcare, European Cohorts of Patients and Schools to Advance Response to Epidemics program. The grant was obtained as part of an international consortium coordinated by EuResist Network, made up of 18 teams from 10 countries (Belgium, Germany, Georgia, Israel, Italy, Lithuania, Holland, Portugal, Sweden, United Kingdom), which will analyze the data of hospital patients, vaccinated health personnel and schools.
Among the main objectives are: to evaluate the effectiveness of surveillance measures in the control of Covid-19 clusters, such as the Lolli method (a simple and child-friendly test to assess Covid infection), compared to contact tracing protocols (in the previous 2 weeks or only 48 hours); compare the various measures taken in different schools to address the emergence of new variants; identify the differences in the incidence of Covid-19 cases considering socio-economic status and transport problems; identify any psychological problems associated with the use of prevention measures; evaluate distance learning, taking into consideration the socio-economic status and the composition of the family unit.