School reopenings in Europe reduce virus concerns — mostly


There’s some good news for countries just beginning to reopen schools.

Their European counterparts — such as Denmark, Austria and Germany — that began sending children back to classrooms in April and early May, haven’t seen significant increases in new cases. And experts are cautiously optimistic that sending children back to school may be relatively safe.

But it’s early days yet. Incremental returns to school and robust infection control measures have been part of the game plan in those countries that have reopened classrooms successfully. With big questions around the virus still hanging in the air, some experts are issuing plenty of caveats.

The exemplar is Denmark, where the first children began returning in mid-April, when the country had just under 200 new cases a day. As of June 8, Denmark had just 14 daily new cases. And while the reproduction rate of the virus increased after the country began reopening, it has since dropped.

The head of experimental virology at Copenhagen University’s Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, Allan Randrup Thomsen, was initially hesitant about the move. But now he notes that, since reopening, there “hasn’t been any effect that we can see.”

In fact, the statistical models predicted there would be more spreading than was actually observed, according to Søren Riis Paludan, professor in virology at Aarhus University. The puzzle is why that didn’t happen.

“Opening the schools has really not been translated into any imprint in the transmission numbers,” he said.


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