No more 1.5 meters distance
Since 1 July, pupils at school no longer have to keep a distance of 1.5 meters from each other and after the summer holidays, secondary schools and schools for secondary special education will reopen completely. Many school environments can accommodate large numbers of students in closely spaced classrooms, while ventilation is often not optimal. Although the coronavirus, like other viruses that cause respiratory infections, is mainly transmitted through coughing and sneezing, there are serious indications that this also happens via so-called aerosols: tiny drops of moisture in the air that are released when screaming, singing, talking and even breathing. .
Hotspot for virus spread
Patricia Bruijning, pediatrician epidemiologist at UMC Utrecht: ‘People who have no or no symptoms yet can also transmit the corona virus. Aerosols remain in the air for much longer than the larger cough or sneeze drops and they can spread further than a meter and a half. ‘ For example, places where ventilation is poor can be a ‘hot spot’ for the spread of the virus. Young children are known to transmit the virus less easily, but this is less clear to adolescents. Patricia: ‘Secondary schools can pose a risk for the spread of COVID-19, but we do not yet know how great that risk is.’
National preparedness platform
That is why UMC Utrecht is starting an investigation into this. First, the lab will investigate how contagious aerosols can be and how these aerosols behave in the air under different ventilation conditions. Simultaneously, from a sample of twenty secondary schools, the conditions of the indoor environment (ventilation, air conditioning, heating, classroom interior, number of pupils, outside windows, etc.) will be mapped and air samples taken to monitor the presence of the virus in the school. A national preparedness platform is also being set up to provide comprehensive investigation of COVID-19 outbreaks in schools.