Comprehensive Contact Tracing, Testing and Sequencing Show Limited Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 between Children in Schools in Norway, August 2020 to May 2021

Microorganisms. 2021 Dec 14;9(12):2587. doi: 10.3390/microorganisms9122587.


The role of children in the spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) in schools has been a topic of controversy. In this study among school contacts of SARS-CoV-2 positive children in 43 contact-investigations, we investigated SARS-CoV-2 transmission in Norway, August 2020-May 2021. All participants were tested twice within seven to ten days, using SARS-CoV-2 PCR on home-sampled saliva. Positive samples were whole genome sequenced. Among the 559 child contacts, eight tested positive (1.4%, 95% CI 0.62-2.80), with no significant difference between primary (1.0%, 95% CI 0.27-2.53) and secondary schools (2.6%, 95% CI 0.70-6.39), p = 0.229, nor by viral strain, non-Alpha (1.4%, 95% CI 0.50-2.94) and Alpha variant (B.1.1.7) (1.7%, 95% CI 0.21-5.99), p = 0.665. One adult contact (1/100) tested positive. In 34 index cases, we detected 13 different SARS-CoV-2 Pango lineage variants, with B.1.1.7 being most frequent. In the eight contact-investigations with SARS-CoV-2 positive contacts, four had the same sequence identity as the index, one had no relation, and three were inconclusive. With mitigation measures in place, the spread of SARS-CoV-2 from children in schools is limited. By excluding contact-investigations with adult cases known at the time of enrolment, our data provide a valid estimate on the role of children in the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in schools.

Keywords: COVID-19; SARS-CoV-2; child; contact; infection prevention and control; transmission; whole genome sequencing.