COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses: mitigating their spread as children return to school across Europe

News story

In order to maintain safe school environments and minimise student and staff absences, it is important to continue ensuring the prevention of the transmission of respiratory viruses such as influenza, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), norovirus and SARS-CoV-2.

Important measures such as promoting the vaccination of pupils and staff against COVID-19, encouraging good respiratory and hand hygiene, establishing improved ventilation systems in school premises, and issuing frequent reminders to stay home when experiencing respiratory symptoms, are vital tools to reduce virus transmission.

The implementation of in-school mitigation measures should be adapted to the educational setting and age group of the students. In addition, such measures should take into account the need to provide children with an optimal learning and social environment.

Children of all ages are susceptible to and can transmit SARS-CoV-2. Children are often asymptomatic or present with mild symptoms of infection, but severe cases do occur, particularly among children with risk factors for severe outcomes. Long COVID (or post-COVID condition) has also been reported.

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the lives of children and adolescents affecting their everyday routines, education, health, development and overall well-being. Schools play a vital role in promoting equity in learning and health, particularly for the children coming from disadvantaged backgrounds and their families. The negative impacts of school disruptions on the health and development of children mean that such measures should be aimed to be kept at a minimum and further loss of learning should be prevented.

ECDC published COVID-19 in children and the role of school settings in transmission - second update in July 2021, and the recommendations from this document remain valid.