A novel approach for evaluating contact patterns and risk mitigation strategies for COVID-19 in English primary schools with application of structured expert judgement

R. S. J. Sparks, W. P. Aspinall, E. Brooks-Pollock, R. M. Cooke, L. Danon, J. Barclay, J. H. Scarrow, J. Cox

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Personal contacts drive COVID-19 infections. After being closed (23 March 2020) UK primary schools partially re-opened on 1 June 2020 with social distancing and new risk mitigation strategies. We conducted a structured expert elicitation of teachers to quantify primary school contact patterns and how contact rates changed upon re-opening with risk mitigation measures in place. These rates, with uncertainties, were determined using a performance-based algorithm. We report mean number of contacts per day for four cohorts within schools, with associated 90% confidence ranges. Prior to lockdown, younger children (Reception and Year 1) made 15 contacts per day [range 8.35] within school, older children (Year 6) 18 contacts [range 5.55], teaching staff 25 contacts [range 4.55] and non-classroom staff 11 contacts [range 2.27]. After re-opening, the mean number of contacts was reduced by 53% for young children, 62% for older children, 60% for classroom staff and 64% for other staff. Contacts between teaching and non-teaching staff reduced by 80%. The distributions of contacts per person are asymmetric with heavy tail reflecting a few individuals with high contact numbers. Questions on risk mitigation and supplementary structured interviews elucidated how new measures reduced daily contacts in-school and contribute to infection risk reduction.
Original languageEnglish
Article number201566
JournalRoyal Society Open Science
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 27 Jan 2021


  • COVID19
  • expert judgement
  • schools
  • transmission

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