In-person Schooling and COVID-19 Transmission

A review of the evidence

UNICEF Cambodia distributed hand washing materials at Krang Snay Primary School in Chhouk District, Cambodia.


This review of current evidence, compiled by UNICEF and UNESCO, shows that in-person schooling does not appear to be the main driver of infection spikes, children in school do not appear to be exposed to higher risks of infection compared to when not in school when mitigation measures are in place, and school staff also do not appear to be at a higher relative risk compared to the general population.

The brief is based on a review of 20 publications: reviews of literature, national surveillance studies of re-opened schools, ecological studies, transmission modelling simulation studies and case-tracing studies. The authors include government agencies, academic researchers and independent research organizations. Most sources are focused on high-income countries.

Examples are from a study from 191 countries that showed no association between schools being open and COVID-19 infection rates in the community. It also references a study from 32 European countries suggesting that student-to-student transmission was uncommon and was not the primary cause of infection in children. In another example, a study of 57,000 caregivers at childcare facilities in the United States found no increased risk of infection among caregivers.

It supports UNICEF’s calls for governments to prioritize reopening schools and to take all possible measures to reopen safely.

For more on UNICEF's response to COVID-19, visit: Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) information centre

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